Maximizing Uptime: Hanover’s Apprenticeship Program Takes Shape

Submitted by Gordon Laabs (Business Development Manager, Elsner Engineering Works, Inc.; Board Member, Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce; Workforce Committee Member) and Nikki Schroeder

“Maximize Uptime.”  The axiom paints images of efficiency, productivity and optimization.

As a manufacturing hub, Hanover, has quite the history of businesses who look to embody this concept because in essence, maximizing your uptime leads to maximizing profits.  We are fortunate that our community boasts so many successful manufacturing companies, and a callout must be made to the hard work, diversity and creativity of the workforce that makes it all possible.

Over generations, our regional manufacturers have had to provide the right climate to maintain a globally competitive workforce, and proper training is a fundamental component of that effort. In fact, nationally most manufacturers cite a lack of skilled labor as a major pain point.  As times change and methodologies evolve, maintaining that workforce remains a challenge.  It’s more important than ever that our manufacturing community embrace the development of meaningful and actionable job training programs, or in other words, embrace Workforce Development.  An expanded initiative toward driving solutions to Workforce Development is a clear need in our community.

The Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce:  Setting the Baseline for Workforce Development

The Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce set the baseline for workforce development with the implementation of the “Introduction to Manufacturing” program.  A groundbreaking 18-week program, it has allowed students valuable exposure to manufacturing career opportunities.

The mission of the program is to grant high school students access to and knowledge of manufacturing employment opportunities in our region.  The program also forces businesses to ask the key question: “Now that you’re interested in a career in manufacturing, how do we as the business community prepare you to be successful?”

With that question in mind, the Chamber began the journey toward building out solutions with a mindset of no constraints until setting the right framework.  All involved in the process have an understanding of what would make workforce development a transformational step change.

Apprenticeship Program:  The Vision and the Leaders

Our journey began as many do: envisioning what we would like to see in the future while considering the current state of what’s happening now across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation.  The process of developing the apprenticeship program has allowed our team the flexibility to iteratively make changes, as our vision was simple, but not straightforward. We wanted to create an apprenticeship program that involved high school students from their junior year in our local businesses.

Having the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce spearhead the effort was a natural fit as a relationship with the Chamber is one thing that all the businesses in our region have in common.  So, with the Chamber in the lead, we created our framework based on the feedback we received.

A Framework Built for Success

To identify the type of apprenticeship model to follow, we needed to consider an operating structure for the program. We began by identifying the programs that were operating successfully, and we chose to build from the template of the Georgia Industrial Mechanic Apprenticeship Model Georgia Technical College and their Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP). With this framework acting as a strawman for our efforts, the Chamber invited Pennsylvania CareerLink to present existing opportunities for workforce development, an important business connection, to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

The Chamber began to pay dividends through its carefully crafted network and we created this framework on a whiteboard in the back of a quiet conference room. In this meeting we gained the support from the PA Department of Labor & Industry to be a model for the Commonwealth.

Partnerships for an Upcoming Apprenticeship Program

Under the guidance of the PA Department of Labor & Industry, we are applying for a group, non-joint model for apprentices. This model is non-union with four companies (Elsner Engineering Works, Inc., KLK Welding, R.H. Sheppard Co, Inc., and Utz Quality Foods, Inc.) under the umbrella of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber provides guidance and connectivity among local business, our schools and the government of Pennsylvania. We expect approval in February.

In parallel, Hanover and South Western School Districts are reviewing the ‘Right Skills Now’ curriculum as a starting point for pre-apprenticeship programs. Following the same advice from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, we begin our journey with a pre-apprenticeship program to allow our participating companies and our schools prepare for a full-apprenticeship program. Both schools have a shared goal of offering this course in Fall 2017.

Maximizing Uptime by Maximizing Exposure

As we all seek to be productive in our lives, our businesses and our professional pursuits, it is imperative to support this program.  Developing a competitive workforce in our community not only helps keep the manufacturing community robust and full of skilled workers, it also succeeds in maintaining a competitive edge in the global marketplace.  If our younger generations are not aware of opportunities within the manufacturing industry, our regional companies cannot benefit from those energetic, young minds.

Conversely, if the students don’t know of the opportunities, they cannot enjoy the benefits offered by these positions.  In the spirit of maximizing uptime, and being as productive and efficient as possible, this program allows for just that as students walk down the path of maximizing exposure to many valuable opportunities.


If you would like to learn more about the Chamber’s Workforce Development Initiatives or the Apprenticeship Program, please contact us at 717-637-6130.