The EPTAM Plastics Apprenticeship Utilizes On-Site Training in the Classroom and On-The-Job to Provide Career Advancement
Karen is a Machine Operator apprentice at EPTAM Plastics in Northfield, NH. Karen is one of seven EPTAM employees enrolled in the program which consists of 296 hours of classroom instruction and 6,000 hours of on-the-job training. Classroom instruction is delivered on-site at EPTAM Plastics through Lakes Region Community College, and apprentices will receive credit from the college which is transferable toward a Certificate in Advanced Manufacturing.
Karen recently sat down with us to discuss her apprenticeship experience to date.
ANH: What has your apprenticeship experience been like thus far?
Karen: I’m really enjoying the apprenticeship program. I’ve been with EPTAM Plastics for about a year, and I’ve always worked in manufacturing. I was a high school dropout and I went back to school a few years ago to get my GED. And then when I enrolled in this program I was really nervous about going back to school but I’m actually really enjoying it. The instructor is really great; he’s helpful and patient. First, we took a blueprint reading class which was taught by an EPTAM employee, and now we’re taking a math class which is being taught by an instructor from Lakes Region Community College.
ANH: What do you like most about your job and about working at EPTAM?
Karen: I love the “hands-on” part of my job, and the fact that every day is a little different. Especially here at EPTAM, I feel like every day I learn something new. The people here are great; I feel like I always have a lot of questions, but I always get good answers. I’ve never worked anywhere where the company lets you work and train, and try new things. Other companies show you how to do one thing and then you end up getting stuck. So knowing that they take people who don’t have any machining experience and are willing to train them, I think that’s great.
ANH: Has it been challenging balancing work and class?
Karen: I thought it was going to be, but it’s really not. The first day of math I had a hard time with the homework because I waited until the last minute, but now as soon as I get out of class I’ll go home that night and work on some of the questions. I think we all had to learn to balance everything out.
ANH: Part of the model of apprenticeship is that you learn things in class, and then you have the opportunity to apply them and practice them on-the-job. Do you feel like what you’re learning in class relates well to what you are practicing on the production floor?
Karen: I do. In the past, I’ve had very little experience with blueprints, and after taking that class I find myself on the floor taking out a blueprint and thinking to myself, oh ok I get that! I find that I have a better sense now of how things work. I still have a lot to learn but I have some more knowledge now which is nice.
ANH: When EPTAM approached you with this opportunity, what were your initial thoughts?
Karen: I was a little scared. I dropped out of high school and always kind of struggled through school, so I didn’t know if I could do it. But at the same time, I always like a challenge so there was no way I was going to say no. And I’m really glad that I did it.
ANH: How do you believe that participating in this program will help you to advance your career goals?
Karen: When I first started here I was a Finisher. A Finisher is responsible for taking the parts off the machine and cleaning up any sharp edges, removing any burrs on the part, and making sure they are all set before they go on to the next stage. And I approached my boss and asked him what it would take for me to become a Machine Operator. So I feel like this program will help me get there. This program will help me get to where I want to go more quickly.
ANH: If someone else here at EPTAM were to approach you and say that they were thinking about doing this apprenticeship, what would you say?
Karen: I’d say definitely! Go for it, what do you have to lose? You may struggle but every day you’ll be gaining something from it. That’s the way I looked at it – thinking about where I was before, and not really being a person who did well in school and this program has opened up my eyes a little bit more. And now I think maybe I will want to keep continuing my education after this. I think another one of the reasons why I never went back to school after finishing my GED was because I couldn’t afford it. I always had dead-end jobs. But with this opportunity, I think it would be crazy to say no.
Interested in Apprenticeship in New Hampshire? Check our opportunities page.