MVMC Graduates First Apprentices from Group Model

By Lisa Solley
CHAMPION TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Adam Johnson comes from a family that taught him the value of hard work.

His hard work ethic paid off Thursday as he and Marc Kindle were the first to graduate from the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition’s group-sponsored model for machinist apprenticeships.

Johnson completed his apprenticeship at Brilex Industries. Kindle, who was unable to attend the ceremony at Trumbull County Technical and Career Center, completed his Altronic. 

Apprenticeships normally take four years to complete. Kindle finished in two and a half years and Johnson in three. The unique model is competency and not hourly based, meaning students can test out of certain competencies based on experience. Johnson said he was able to test out of four or five through TCTC and the rest of his core competency tests were through Brilex. He completed his final test last week. 

“This is a little milestone in my life so I can get my journeyman’s card so I can improve more throughout my trade,” said Johnson, a Mathew High School graduate.

He chose TCTC because of its curriculum and the apprenticeship program, which was different than other area schools. Johnson looks forward to continuing to work at Brilex and remaining in the area. 

Jessica Borza, executive director of MVMC, said the graduation from the apprenticeship program was a perfect illustration of companies working together instead of standing alone. 

“It’s a new way of doing business,” she said. 

MVMC is a partner in the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, a collaboration of 14 counties in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania. The apprenticeships are funded through a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. The TCTC machining apprenticeship is sponsored by Oh-Penn.

Erich Hetzel from the Ohio Apprenticeship Council presented machinist Adam Johnson with his graduation certificate Thursday. Johnson was the first apprentice to complete his education through the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition’s group-sponsored model.

Ryan Engelhardt, plant manager at Brilex, said when company owner Brian Benyo sent out letters eight years ago asking other companies – competitors – to come together to form the MVMC, he knew it was an opportunity to fill a growing skills gap quicker than each company doing it alone. 

Borza explained that 80% of the company members had needs that were common to all so they began talking about training needs, program and curriculum models.  Brilex and Altronic were two early adopters of the program. 

“They showed the commitment and invested the money for training, setting the stage for others to follow in their path,” Borza said. 

Eric Karmecy of the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network said he is proud to have been a part of the formation of MVMC’s different type of sponsorship that isn’t a single company, but rather a group-sponsor model. MVMC is the sponsor and member companies pay the apprentice for hands-on training, and provide an experienced employee to mentor the apprentice through the program. 

“It’s satisfying to see the results of that,” Karmecy said. 

Erich Hetzel, account executive of the Ohio Apprenticeship Council, presented Johnson with his apprenticeship completion certificate. TCTC has prepared 50 apprentices in Ohio, and Johnson and Kindle are two more, Hetzel said before presenting Johnson with his certificate.

“Would you like to be number 2,397 or 2,398?” asked Hetzel.   

“I’ll take the one before the other guy,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Hetzel said the apprenticeship program is growing, noting that a starting wage for apprentices is $16 an hour and by completion, the hourly rate is around $29. 

There are 219 registered apprentices in 60 companies in the greater Oh-Penn region, according to Karmecy.  

He praised the growth of MVMC over the past eight years in development of new training programs and expansion of existing programs as well as the millions of dollars in investments that have been brought in as a result of the coalition.

“This is a major leap of faith on your part and also a major leap of faith on behalf of manufacturers who invested in you,” Karmecy said, referring to the graduates. “This is the first step to honing your craft and then imparting your skills and craft onto others.”

Matt Olson, industrial trades coordinator, TCTC adult education, said he remembers Johnson and Kindle from when he was instructing in the machining program.

“It’s nice to say, hey I’m helping these guys out, whether as apprentices or as part of our full time program, to further their lives and their families,” Olson said. “When you’re in the education field, that’s all you can hope for, that you’re making a difference and helping people go farther in their lives.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.