From Apprentice to Executive Director

Author: Montez King | Cross-posted from LinkedIn


Last month, NIMS was honored to host the U.S. Department of Labor’s inaugural launch event to announce the 18 organizations named as Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) for their new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP). You can read more about the event here.

What I’d like to share with you on this Manufacturing Day 2020 is why apprenticeship is so important, why it’s near and dear to my heart and what this new approach means to me personally as well as NIMS.

It was 30 years ago that I had my first experience with apprenticeship, when I, myself, became an apprentice in machining. I was excited about the opportunity to build a promising career, but as I progressed through the program, I couldn’t help but notice that despite all the advantages I was gaining with on-the-job-training, there were still areas that I thought could be improved.

I finished my apprenticeship and earned my Journeyman card. But during that experience, I began to dream, to imagine, how I would do things differently if I was in charge of training new apprentices. I saw ways to make it more fair and provide the same opportunities to all who entered not just the foreman’s favorites. Seeds were planted that I hoped would grow, but honestly, I didn’t have any idea at the time that they would eventually be recognized in a government program called IRAP.

I’ve had many experiences over the past 30 years that have shaped my career and watered those early training ideas that were planted long ago, in unexpected ways. I’ve worked for one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, and I’ve given back to my community as an instructor and mentor for other machinists, young and old. With each advance in my own career, I filed away my experiences and the picture of a different kind of work and learn training became a little clearer.

Then in 2017, the wheels began to turn again when I was appointed to the President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. As the Executive Director of NIMS, I represented our industry along with Fortune 500 CEOs and other thought leaders in workforce training to try and answer the question: why do apprenticeships only represent 0.3% of the U.S. workforce while our friends across the pond have at least 30% of their workforce trained this way?

Later that fall, after much discussion, the Task Force released its recommendations, and the concept of IRAP was introduced to government agencies, educational institutions and industry leaders. Over the past two-and-a-half years, NIMS has worked with companies, educators and the Department of Labor to fine tune our approach to IRAP, and just this past September, we were chosen to be one of the first SREs in this new and exciting program.

Three decades ago, when I had my first experience with apprenticeship and thought of how I might improve it, I never imagined a day where a new era of apprenticeship would be launched from an organization under my own leadership.

And now here we are!

While it has a special meaning to me personally, I speak for both myself and NIMS when I say that we are proud supporters of this new approach to apprenticeship that is driven by industry – for industry.

If you would like to learn more about IRAP or are interested in applying to NIMS for recognition of your program, we are hosting an informational webinar on October 19 at 1:00pm ET, click here to register.

If you would like more information about our approach to On-the-Job Training, check out my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Enhancing Your Training. It comes with a link to a free self-evaluation for employers to determine the effectiveness of your training.

If you’d like to see more about my experiences as an apprentice, check out this video.