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While in high school, Austin Badman intended to learn a trade, perhaps moving into technical school.

Instead, he got involved in an apprenticeship program where he learned the skills he needed to launch a career as a CNC machinist.

“I recommend it to young people like me” he said.

Badman, 21, of Sunbury, is one of a handful of apprenticeship graduates successfully employed at PMF Industries of Williamsport, a sheet metal contractor.

Local manufacturers, school districts, and career and technology centers in conjunction with the Central Pennsylvania Apprenticeship Consortium (CPAC) are part of the training program

workers while helping companies fill important, often difficult to fill positions.

Sam Shea, PMF’s director of human resources, said the program has served as a key recruiting tool for the company.

In the past few years, four people have completed their apprenticeships at the company and more are currently enrolled there, he said.

“They work full time, eight hours a day”, he said.

It also includes one evening per week of classroom training.

Shea and other PMF officials noted that one of the biggest hurdles their business faces is finding skilled workers to fill the jobs.

“We could have big problems without this program”, said Jerry Ulsamer, director of PMF. “The high schools have really intensified.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Central Pa Workforce Development Corporation, in partnership with CPAC, had received a $ 250,000 PAsmart grant to develop a CNC machinist pre-apprenticeship path for high school students in a number school districts.

The PAsmart grant funds equipment and supplies for students enrolled at Williamsport Area High School, Keystone Central School District, Jersey Shore Area School District, Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School, and other schools. and institutions in the region. .

The initial objective is to channel these pre-apprenticeship students into an apprenticeship program in a company.

“The high schools have really intensified” Derek Knipe, PMF manufacturing engineer, said. “They see what we need. They are very open to advice.

Apprenticeship programs are not new, but few companies are taking advantage of them to recruit and perhaps more importantly, to retain workers.

“It’s an old process” Ulsamer said. “It’s just being rejuvenated.”

When asked why more companies aren’t doing this, he replied: “I don’t know. As they get into trouble, they may have to.

Shea pointed out that it’s all about recruiting.

CNC machinists commit to three years at PMF for successful completion of the apprenticeship program.

“If I can get three years out of it, I’ll probably have five” Shea said.

But the long-term goal is to get many more years for employees trained in apprenticeships, he added.

“More and more industries will need apprenticeship training to survive” Knipe said.

And, he hopes to expand the apprenticeship program to jobs beyond the CNC machinist position.

“There is always a risk when you train people and they leave for some reason” Ulsamer said.

Shea said a challenge for companies is keeping up with changing technology to properly train people for the job.

Overall, the apprenticeship program serves as a long-term strategy to retain company staff and help people launch their careers.

Austin MacKenzie completed his apprenticeship in May and couldn’t be happier working at PMF now as a CNC machinist.

“It basically helps to have real-time experience and to implement it with what you do at work” he said. “You get everything you need to be successful. “

Badman noted that if he had attended school as originally planned, he would have faced mounting school debts.

“It’s an alternative to university” he said. “The point is, you are focusing on a trade that you want to do.”

His plan for now, he said, is to stay with PMF using the skills he has learned.

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