Preparing Apprentices for the Future

Here at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, helping students achieve their dreams is what we do. If you’ve read this magazine before, you’ve seen countless stories about students realizing their potential or landing their ideal job.

What may come as a surprise are the many ways in which we help students reach those goals. For some it’s through our transferrable Associate’s Degrees, others find success in our hands-on career and technical programs, and then, there is another group of students – those preparing for the future through Registered Apprenticeship Programs provided by local employers.

This third group, more than 100 students to be exact, is the direct result of partnerships with dozens of companies who ask EICC to provide additional coursework and training for their apprenticeship programs. The companies take care of the on-the-job training while EICC develops courses based on each employer’s needs. It’s important work we’re proud to be a part of and a relationship that benefits both apprentices and their employer.

Take Kyle Long for example, after dropping out of high school, getting his GED and securing a full-time job, he thought his chance at post-secondary education had passed. However, when he started working as a machinist at SMS in Muscatine he was surprised to learn there was another way forward, apprenticeship.

“Honestly, once I got a full-time job I thought school was out of question,” Long said. “With my job and two kids I just assumed I’d be working in a shop for the rest of my life and not be able or have the chance to go back to further my education.”

Thanks to his company’s Registered Apprenticeship Program, Long was able to complete a four-year apprenticeship and move up the ranks to Team Leader, filling his company’s need for skilled workers.

“It’s taxing on the employer to try and educate employees on the job constantly like that,” Long said. “So it was nice to leave work and go to Scott Community College’s Blong Technology Center which is tailored for training and education.

“I still run a machine, but I also am in charge of scheduling machine shop work, making sure people stay on task, and dealing with any issues within the machine shop or fabrication area,” he said. “It’s given me a lot more responsibly and that’s what I like about it. It’s not monotonous at all, there’s constantly something new.”

An added benefit for apprentices is the ability to earn up to 46 hours of college credit toward an Associate’s Degree in Technical Studies, which is something Long decided to do. After completing his apprenticeship program, he finished the remaining coursework for his degree through EICC’s online classes.

Kyle Long with job trainer

“It was exciting,” he said. “It was special for me because I didn’t graduate from high school, so it was the first time I was able to walk across the stage and my daughter cried. She was so proud of me.”

Now, he can look forward to a future filled with possibilities. This promise of a brighter future is exactly why Noah House and Kelly Baker recently applied to M.A. Ford’s Apprenticeship Program. The high-performance cutting tool manufacturer is located less than a mile from the Blong Technology Center and offers both two-year and four-year apprenticeships. Both House and Baker agree the partnership with EICC provides the perfect balance between on-the-job training and related classwork.

“With the apprenticeship you get all of the hands-on training along with the actual school work. It’s not do the school work and then you get to learn this, it’s all happening at the same time,” Baker said.

Kyle machining with safety glasses

“I like it,” House said.  “The Blong is a really nice facility and they have a fully operational shop out there.  The instructors are great, the material is good and I am definitely learning a lot already.

“I saw it as an opportunity to better myself,” he said. “The program promotes leadership and I’ve always seen myself as a leader. I see it as a way to advance and improve myself within the company.”

Gale Kraft, who works as the Human Resource Manager for M.A. Ford, said that’s exactly why these types of apprenticeship programs are an important resource for area companies.

“We are very blessed to have a program like this and partnership with EICC that’s helping us to look forward to the future of our business,” she said. “There’s a shortage of workers; we need to increase the pipeline.”

How do I become and apprentice?

Typically, in order to participate in an apprenticeship, you must be hired or sponsored by a company that participates in a Registered Apprenticeship. Apprentices can be new hires, or businesses can select current employees to join the apprenticeship program. However, students who enroll in EICC’s Culinary Arts Program are offered an apprenticeship through local employers as part of their coursework.

In order to participate in the apprenticeships listed through area companies, you will need to apply for employment with the companies you are interested in. If you do not have the basic skills the employers will require, consider taking a short-term certificate at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. If you complete coursework that is later required for your apprenticeship, you can apply it toward your program!

To find out more about companies offering apprenticeship training through Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, visit