Smiths Medical recently entered into a partnership with the ApprenticeshipNH program to put current staff members in their Keene facility working as machine operators through a comprehensive educational and training program that will allow them to advance into roles as industrial systems technicians. Following the “earn while you learn” model of ApprenticeshipNH, Nashua Community College (NCC) and Keene State College (KSC) are developing and delivering the academic programming for this customized program, which launched with its first cohort in January.
Smiths Medical is a global company that supplies specialized medical devices and equipment for global markets, focusing on the medication delivery, vital care and safety devices market segments. Their Keene facility employs 360 and focuses on assembly and packaging of blood sampling devices, syringes for injection and has contracts with the US government for COVID-19 vaccinations. They have a mix of automation and custom operations.
The initial group will take their knowledge of operating machinery they have developed and supplement that with classroom instruction and 4,000 hours of hands-on equipment maintenance training as part of the apprenticeship. The skill sets they will develop align with a newer field often referred to as mechatronics, which focuses on automation and includes mechanical engineering and some electrical engineering skills.
“We wanted to develop the pool of talent and provide career steppingstones for our current employees. It’s difficult to find people with engineer-level skills. The ApprenticeshipNH team helped us envision how we could build and scale a program that will provide these employees with invaluable, cutting edge engineering skills that will lead to growth and supervisory opportunities and a pathway to earn a college degree over the longer term,” said Jonathan Tomachick, engineering manager and site SES leader for the Smiths Medical Keene operations.
ApprenticeshipNH is an initiative housed at the Community College System of NH that seeks to address workforce needs in specific sectors throughout the state by creating Registered Apprenticeship opportunities within the information technology, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, automotive, biotechnology and infrastructure/construction sectors. The program was established in 2017 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. To date, hundreds of individuals and dozens of companies have benefitted from the program.
The ApprenticeshipNH program model often includes a high level of customization in the model to address specific employer needs through the academic and hands-on components that are the core of every apprenticeship program. Working with ApprenticeshipNH, KSC and NCC created a blended curriculum that was attractive to the needs of Smiths Medical. This included developing a custom course for computer literacy and aptitude that ties directly into the skillsets the company needs. KSC offers more courses in liberal arts and the design spectrum. NCC brings more of the technical skills components.
“Having weekly modules really fits well for balancing my job and my family time. My professor is very easy to work with and his online videos for content reviews are very easy to follow. Continuing your education has benefits for yourself and your company. Anyone who is considering an apprenticeship can see that this program has great benefits,” said Marcello Hart, one of the current Smiths Medical apprentices.
Apprentices in the program are exposed to project related work and outside assignments through a blend of hands-on examples and on the job training. Through this work, they will get exposed to the equipment used by Smiths Medical and learn about troubleshooting by partnering with an engineering technician in house that can help with coaching. Smiths Medical is already planning for recruiting for a second cohort in late 2021.