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Behlen launches apprenticeship program

August 8, 2018

Area students will be able to receive first-hand work experience with Behlen Manufacturing Co. launching its Registered Apprenticeship Program on Tuesday.

“We are really excited about this opportunity,” said Phil Raimondo, president of Behlen Buildings Systems and CEO of Behlen Group. “We are looking forward to apprenticeships being more of an upgrade from internships … We just hope to be a good example in the community for other businesses to pick up on this opportunity and grow through apprenticeships.”

Tyler Bertsch, training manager at Behlen Manufacturing Co., reached out to the Department of Labor six months ago, opening up the idea to standardize their training operations to better prepare students for the workforce to fulfill the different needs in the industry.

Bertsch, who began his career at Behlen Manufacturing Co. as an intern, said the company recruits approximately 25 interns a year, including 17-year-old Reece Schmidt.

Thanks to the program, Schmidt, who will be a senior at Columbus High School this year, is able to move up the ladder and become an apprentice.

“I am trying to make it so that I can keep working through the school year,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully, it will be ongoing for as long as it can … I just want to keep working because it gives me something to do.”

Schmidt, who aspires to one day be a welder, said he has picked up many skills as he rotates through different departments in the summer. He added he looks forward to continuing that growth the rest of the year.

“Through this apprenticeship, I hope I will be able to keep increasing my skills to further become a welder,” he said.

Schmidt will be one of the first students enrolling into the program, alongside Erik Matson of CHS.

The program, which stemmed from a collaboration between Columbus High School and Behlen Manufacturing Co., provides the opportunity for area students to experience working as employees for a manufacturing company. This employer-driven apprenticeship is registered under the Department of Labor, which is recognized by various industries.

“I think it will be beneficial because they get to see the industry and real-life jobs, get exposed to different things…” Bertsch said. “They get paid, learn things and get experience before they go to school or while they’re going to school, so they basically earn as they learn.”

Bertsch said the program consists of two types of apprenticeships, industrial technician and welding. The industrial technician apprenticeship is catered for CHS students while the welding apprenticeship is open to all area students, including those attending Central Community College.

Bertsch said the program benefits the students as much as it does the industry by increasing the number of skilled workforces in the long-run.

Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz said the program goes well with the CHS’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy, allowing students to apply what they’ve learned in the classrooms into the industry.

“Well this is the reason why we got into the STEM Academy at our new high school ... for opportunities like this…,” Loeffelholz said.

Loeffelholz said students at CHS have different aspirations, some may want to continue their educations at four- or two-year colleges, while others might want to jump straight into the workforce. Therefore, he said it’s important for the school to provide a variety of opportunities, such as apprenticeships, to fit these different needs and better prepare them for the next stage of their lives.

He said he hopes to see more area businesses provide apprenticeship opportunities for area students.

“It’s our job to prepare them for two-year or four-year colleges or get them into an apprenticeship where they can learn the job skills and go back into the workforce and earn money,” Loeffelholz said. “Hopefully, we have a room full of kids doing apprenticeships in the future.”

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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