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National Apprenticeship Week Spotlight: Caterpillar

In honor of the third annual National Apprenticeship Week, we are highlighting our member companies’ leading apprenticeship programs. Over the last five years, the number of apprentices nationwide has grown drastically, with more than 545,000 apprentices across the country – many of whom call North Carolina home. Today, we’re excited to feature Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives, and the programs instituted in the company’s Clayton and Sanford facilities.

Caterpillar’s Clayton facility is the world-wide manufacturer of Small Wheel Loaders and is home to a pre-apprenticeship program that was founded in 2013. This program was designed to develop Caterpillar’s talent pipeline by targeting high school students and in 2014 was honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Workforce Development. The 18-month program allows high school students to receive on-the-job experience and development at Caterpillar, free college credit at Johnston Community College and a certification of completion from the NC Community College System. Since the program’s implementation five years ago, it has proven to be an integral component to solving Caterpillar’s workforce challenges. Now, the Clayton facility has a 57% hire rate after graduation, with students securing part or full-time employment.

The world-wide manufacturer of Skid Steer Loaders, Caterpillar’s Sanford facility founded its apprenticeship program after the company wanted to bring some manufacturing back to the United States from Mexico but found there weren’t enough skilled trades people in the community to fill the jobs. This program also targets high school students, allowing them to take college course work in their field of study, while receiving pay for their training. The hands-on experience apprentices receive through this program places them in high demand jobs with excellent pay and benefits right out of high school. Some apprentices even go on to finish their degrees, with costs covered through Caterpillar’s tuition assistance program. The initial program not only sprouted strong partnerships among the local schools and community colleges but also led to the creation of a second apprenticeship program at the facility designed to develop manufacturing engineers. Since the program’s inception, Caterpillar has added more than 200 skilled jobs and created steady supply of skilled labor to support continued growth.

The success of the programs in Clayton and Sanford can be attributed to Caterpillar’s commitment to filling its talent pipeline, as well as the company’s partnership with local school systems. Caterpillar relies heavily on its partnership with the local public schools and community colleges surrounding Clayton and Sanford to help attract, recruit and retain students. It is this partnership that will close the skills gap long-term, by ensuring students are fully prepared to successfully enter the workforce through 21st-century career-training opportunities. This is just one example of a North Carolina job creator tackling workforce challenges head-on and I look forward to sharing more throughout the week as we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber