This blog is part 4 of our 4-part Business Perspectives on Growing Equity & Diversity Through Apprenticeship series. To learn how Lippert and others are implementing practices to increase diversity in their apprenticeship programs, read 4 Strategies for Incorporating Equity and Diversity in Your Apprenticeship Program.
By Julio Cruz, Personal Development Coach, Lippert Components
When people think about manufacturing, they might think of products or big warehouses. But people are the most important aspect of any manufacturing operation.
Without our people, we would have no products to sell. It’s the team members we bring on board who have the skills, the knowledge, and the innovative spirit that help the entire company succeed.
Yet manufacturers across the country are facing a stark reality: The number of people with the skills we need is shrinking, and the number of people retiring (and taking their skills with them) is increasing.
Investing in the people who come in our door is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. We have to do it if we want to stay competitive.
At Lippert Components we have found that, in order to draw out the best from our people and ensure they have the skills we need, we have to take responsibility for equipping them with the supports, training, and environment they need to feel prepared for and excited about their work.
Our apprenticeship program is critical to our effort to fulfill our commitment to investing in our team members. Apprenticeships help our employees develop the skills we need across our workforce.
When we launched our apprenticeship program three years ago, we quickly saw that it had the potential to both help our team members feel empowered and provide Lippert with high-quality team members.
It was important to provide apprenticeship opportunities to as many people as possible so our full team, and the company as a whole, could benefit.
Fully one-third of our workforce is Latino, and many of those team members are English language learners. For many of the people in that group, the prospect of having to take classes in English as part of the apprenticeship program was an enormous barrier that prevented them from applying. That meant that we were not realizing the true potential of 33 percent of our workforce.
Things needed to change. Our Latino team members are a critical and valuable part of our company and community, and we needed to provide them with the supports to succeed.
We decided to take part in the Growing Opportunities in America for Latinos (GOAL!) program, offered in partnership by the Horizon Education Alliance (an Elkhart County, Indiana, nonprofit dedicated to the educational success of Indiana residents) and the Labor Institute for Training, or LIFT (an Indiana-based nonprofit that assists in the development of educational programs to increase individuals’ employment opportunities).
GOAL! provides a Spanish-language version of the curriculum people need to master in order to earn the Certified Production Technician credential. People pursuing the CPT credential can take the classes while they are participating in the on-the-job learning portion of the apprenticeship, or at another time.
Participating in the GOAL! program is just one of the ways in which Lippert supports team members who are learning English. We also offer free online English language classes and provide other resources to help our team members communicate both on and off the job.
These investments in our workforce have been extraordinarily beneficial for our team members, and for Lippert. Our turnover rate has decreased from 120 percent to less than 30 percent.
As we look to the future and consider our plans for creating even more apprenticeship opportunities for our team members, we are more confident than ever in Lippert’s future as a manufacturer, and as a preferred employer for everyone in our community.
This work has been funded through the generous support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- 4 Strategies for Incorporating Equity and Diversity in Your Apprenticeship Program, JFF
- Growing Equity and Diversity Through Apprenticeship: Business Perspectives, JFF
- The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeships: A Business Perspective, Case Western Reserve University, U.S. Department of Commerce