National Apprenticeship Week is November 8–14 and South Central College (SCC) is celebrating by sharing success stories of the college’s Learn Work Earn program. “The Learn Work Earn program allows students to attend college while working in their chosen career field,” said Kelcey Woods-Nord, South Central College’s Apprenticeship and Internship Coordinator. “They gain real-world experience on the job and earn a competitive wage while simultaneously completing their degree.” Since 2016, SCC has partnered with employers to offer students opportunities to “Learn Work Earn” in the manufacturing, agribusiness and healthcare sectors.

 “I had wanted to become a medical assistant, but I couldn’t afford to go back to school,” explains Grace Henke-Raatz, a Department Specialist at the Mankato Clinic. “When the Clinic offered the opportunity for current employees to go to school for free while also working in the field, I knew I needed to try. I applied and was accepted into the program in August 2019. I couldn’t believe it!”

One of the contributing factors to SCC’s success with apprenticeships has been the State of Minnesota PIPELINE program, which funds dual training partnerships between employers and colleges. Since 2016, SCC employer partners have received funding for 285 dual training positions valued at more than $1.5 million to help pay for apprentices’ classroom training. In 2020, 12 employers received a total of $379,000, which was approximately 14% of all funds received by employers state-wide:

Company, Location, SCC Program(s), Number of PIPELINE Funded Student Positions
Daikin Applied, Faribault and Owatonna, Mechatronics, 33 positions
Dotson Iron Castings, Mankato, Machine Tool Technology and Mechatronics, 5 positions
Jones Metal, Inc., Mankato, Machine Tool Technology and Welding, 5 positions
K&G Manufacturing, Faribault, Machine Tool Technology, 1 position
Mankato Clinic, Mankato, Medical Assistant, 4 positions
New Ulm Medical Center (Allina), New Ulm, Practical Nursing (Preparation for LPN), 1 position
Oshkosh/McNeilus Trucking, Dodge Center, Machine Tool Technology, 8 positions
Post Consumer Brands, Northfield, Mechatronics, 2 positions
Sage Glass, Faribault, Mechatronics, 2 positions
Seneca Foods, Glencoe and Montgomery, Agribusiness Service Technician, 3 positions
V-TEK, Inc., Mankato, Mechatronics, 2 positions
Winegar, Waseca, Machine Tool Technology, 7 positions

Through PIPELINE, which stands for “Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience,” the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry helps employers meet their current and future workforce needs by creating “dual training” opportunities for employees in high-demand, high-wage occupations. Employees enrolled in a dual training program receive a combination of on-the-job training paired with related instruction though a qualified educational provider, such as South Central College (SCC), as well as SCC’s Center for Business and Industry, which provides customized training and continuing education for professionals.

Post Consumer Brands of Northfield has high praise for SCC and Kelcey Woods-Nord’s assistance with the PIPELINE program.  “South Central College helped us navigate setting up our apprenticeship program,” explains Todd Person, Plant Technical Director for Post Consumer Foods. “Kelcey provides a level of oversight with our techs to make sure everything is going well with their school, work schedule, etc.  We view her as an invaluable asset in making our program successful.  We are busy running a 1MM square foot facility and she handles a lot of details to ensure that our apprentices feel good about their experience.”

PIPELINE Grants to fund this education are available through the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Employers may apply for grants to reimburse expenses related to their employee’s education or training, including tuition, books, and required supplies. PIPELINE Grants are available to employers providing training for in-demand, high-growth occupations in the areas of advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services and information technology. 

For more information on apprenticeship opportunities at South Central College through the college’s “Learn Work Earn” program, visit www.southcentral.edu/earn.