Cristian Mendoza formerly worked in facilities for a local company, where he kept the production floor clean and disposed of recyclables and hazardous chemical waste. But now he is learning to be an Industrial Maintenance Technician, seeking more opportunity for career growth and better pay.
Mendoza, of Woodstock, is among the first eight apprentices from six different companies as part of McHenry County College's new Apprenticeship Program that launched in January. The MCC Apprenticeship Program aims to address skills gaps in manufacturing in partnership with area employers, the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training, and the McHenry County Workforce Network.
The apprenticeship program is a five-year program that includes three years of company-paid education and on-the-job training, and includes attainment of an Associate in Applied Science degree in Engineering Technology from MCC. Following graduation, apprentices are retained by their host company for two additional years in a high-paying, high-skills job.
MCC will host an Apprenticeship Open House at 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, for anyone interested in learning more about the program and meeting with company representatives. The open house will take place at the MCC Shah Center, 4100 W. Shamrock Lane in McHenry.
At his job at UniCarriers in Marengo, Mendoza is learning how to service up to 10 different models of forklifts -- just in time to fill the gap -- when his trainer retires in July.
"I'm definitely excited to transition to maintenance," Mendoza said. "I get to work with my hands instead of throwing out scraps," he said. "This apprenticeship program means opportunity for growth, and these are good skill sets to bring to work and use at home."
This semester, MCC apprentices have learned blueprint reading, how to work on mills and lathes, measurement tools, and shop math.
For maintenance mechanic Jim Mohaupt of Genoa City, MCC's Apprenticeship program gives him an opportunity to receive employer-sponsored training to learn new skills on Computer Numerically Controlled machines that he can bring to his job at Watlow in Richmond.
"It seemed like a good opportunity," Mohaupt said. "I'm learning how to work on machines that I had no previous experience in, such as mills and lathes. When I'm on the job, if we cannot get a part, I could make it," he said, referring to his new machining skills.
Maintenance apprentice Temo Martinez of McHenry agreed.
"The apprenticeship program at MCC means everything to me," he said, adding that he seeks to increase his opportunities for better pay to support his wife and two kids.
"I was struggling to find the right job," he said, adding that he grew up on a farm in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and worked in farming his whole life until he started as a machine operator at PolyOne three years ago. As a maintenance apprentice, Martinez said he is "always learning."
Currently, MCC partners with eight companies for the program: PolyOne and Fabrik Molded Plastics in McHenry, Chicago Plastics Systems Inc. and TC Industries in Crystal Lake, Watlow in Richmond, UniCarriers in Marengo, Scot Forge in Spring Grove, and TEQ in McHenry.
MCC apprenticeships currently include Industrial Maintenance Technician and the CNC Machining Technician.
"We welcome everyone to see what it's all about," said Evelyn Seiler, coordinator of the Internship and Apprenticeship Program at MCC. "Companies are looking to hire on for the summer and the apprentices will begin classes in the fall. We're looking to get students into the recruiting process.
"It's high-skills jobs that companies need people trained for," Seiler said, adding that this is a win-win for both the company and the apprentice. "Companies can be involved in how an apprentice is trained and the apprentice learns specific skills related to that particular company."
She said partner companies join ICATT, a proven training program that follows a German model, registers the apprenticeships with the Department of Labor, and provides companies with support for developing their apprentices.
Seiler said current plans are to expand the Apprenticeship program by adding more companies to the program in preparation for the fall 2019 cohort start.
Individuals interested in becoming apprenticeship candidates can register with ICATT at www.icattapprenticeships.com/apprentices/. For information about the apprenticeship program, contact Evelyn Seiler at (815) 455-8706 or email@example.com.