FM Apprenticeship Program
If you like working with your hands, where do you go to learn a skilled trade that will always be in demand and provide you with a stable career?
Right here at West Virginia University. And you don’t pay tuition—WVU pays you!
Earn While You Learn
Participants in the four-year program are paid as full-time, benefits-eligible employees. Each apprentice is teamed with an experienced craft worker for on-the-job training and must successfully complete 1,600 hours of on-the-job training and 145 hours of classroom and technical education each year.
“I believe this program is a great opportunity for new employees to learn a trade while on the job and have a great career working for WVU,” said Paul Stewart, operations manager of the electrical maintenance shop. “It is also an opportunity for those of us with many years of experience to transfer this knowledge to newer employees, which is also a benefit to WVU.”
Excellence Through Education and Training
Since 2007, the Facilities Management Apprenticeship Program has been training men and women the specialized skills required to work as trades specialists in the areas of plumbing, HVAC, mechanical maintenance, and electrical. And for those who want to do a bit of everything, there is the general trades position. “General trades is a little different than being trade specific,” said Willie Jefferson, operations manager of zone 5 maintenance. “You have to have knowledge of all trades in general maintenance…you’re focused on all aspects of the building trades.”
A Challenging Opportunity
The program is structured into four distinct phases, each phase supplying progressively more advanced training and greater job responsibilities. And each phase also carries with it an increased wage and pay scale. The apprentice who successfully completes the program receives a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor as a journeyman in his or her trade.
Christina Miller, a general trades apprentice, came to the program by way of West Virginia Women Work, another training program that WVU has partnered with in its goal to foster diversity. “I hadn’t planned on becoming an electrician, but after taking a course in electrical so that I could do my own house repairs, I realized that I really liked electrical work and decided to get into the field.” She heard about WVU’s program from a friend. “What I like about general trades is that you’re never locked into one type of work—there’s something different every day. I’m learning things that are useful to both the university and me; I’ve done carpentry and electrical work on my parent’s house, and I’m never going to have to call a plumber again.”
Christina’s informative friend is Misti Dunn, who came into the program with her as a general trades apprentice. “Electrical work is my favorite also, and my ultimate goal is to be a certified electrician. But in general trades you do learn a lot of other useful skills. I like the sheet metal shop and carpentry. I have met some really great people.”
Participants in the program come from outside the university as well as from the ranks of WVU employees. Justin Groves, in his first year as an electrical apprentice, worked for nearly 2 ½ years as a custodian at the Mountainlair. “I heard about the program and decided I wanted to learn a skilled trade, and electrical sounded like the most interesting for me,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I like the people I work with. I’m going to stick with the program and with WVU.”
Anthony Ratliff, an HVAC apprentice, was also an FM employee before getting into the program. “I like what I’m doing,” he said. “I was looking to get out of custodial mainly because it is a bit dull and repetitive. I have always liked working with my hands and this just seemed like a great opportunity. I still think it is a great idea.”
Employee Retention: A Major Goal of the Program
“Employee retention is one of our strategic goals,” said Randy Hudak, Vice President of Facilities Management, “and career development is a key component of that. This program offers our employees a chance to move into the areas of work that they find most rewarding, with tangible goals. At the same time, it also ensures our organization of an increasing pool of skilled trades workers to fill the vacancies that naturally occur as time goes on. It’s helping make us more sustainable.”