by Liz Ramos | December 6, 2023
Apprentices work full-time while attending courses at Manatee Technical College to further their careers and fill gaps in various industries.
Lakewood Ranch’s Frank Petrone hopes attaining an electrician journeyman license through an apprenticeship program will be his first step to starting his own business. Petrone works full time for NCN Electric, which sponsors his apprenticeship at Manatee Technical College. As a second-year apprentice, Petrone is gaining on-the-job experience while being paid for his work and receiving additional training at MTC. “I’m looking forward to having my name on a van somewhere driving around Manatee County,” Petrone said.
Manatee Technical College works with businesses to provide early childhood education, electrical and HVAC apprenticeships. MTC began offering HVAC for the first time in August while adding a third year to the electrical apprenticeship program.
The technical college partners with Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association for the HVAC apprenticeship and Technical Education Council for the electrical apprenticeship so employers can find qualified apprentices.
A business provides full-time employment with on-the-job training and sponsors each apprentice. The apprentice goes to Manatee Technical College for a few hours, depending on the apprenticeship program, for related technical instruction.
Justin Erickson, an assistant director of Manatee Technical College, said the programs allow students a continuing education path and increase the technical college’s employer network and community engagement.
Erickson said the state is pushing apprenticeships, and MTC is eager to grow with different trades and organizations.
The programs are composed of industry certification credentials and often, the credentials are used to pursue further higher education, Erickson said.
While apprentices are working full time for the employer sponsoring them, they are earning wages.
Andy Alvarenga, an electrical apprentice, said his apprenticeship allows him to save money while gaining three years of experience. His on-the-job training allows him to get hands-on experience rather than learning from a computer. He said the instruction is more of an introduction to electrical basics.
The training also introduces them to various types of electrical working such as residential and commercial.
“Once you get in the field, it’s a whole different story,” he said. “There’s so much more that goes into it. … When you’re on an actual job site, you come into situations where you have to problem solve and you don’t get that problem solving with something that’s been manufactured and practiced over and over again.”
Apprentices work full time while attending courses at Manatee Technical College to further their careers and fill gaps in various industries.
Erickson said the apprenticeship programs are successful because they are employer driven. Each apprenticeship program has an advisory committee consisting of employers that provide input on what students need to learn to be successful in the field.
“Oftentimes, in these training programs, these instructors have been out in the field so they teach the frameworks and the objectives but they also know what’s 10 more steps ahead that we can apply or give to the student to make them stand out,” Erickson said.
Adam Usher, the founder of Technical Education Council, said instructors work together to ensure apprentices have a well rounded education so they can adjust to employer demands.
The Technical Education Council works with employers to find apprentices that will receive related technical instruction at technical schools including MTC and Suncoast Technical College. Usher said the electrical apprenticeship program has increased from 100 students three years ago to now more than 250 students throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties.
“The majority of our expansion has always been people coming to us and saying they have a need, not us trying to expand into that area,” he said. “We feel like we’re always filling a void.”
Erickson said MTC students often are recruited from the technical college’s electrician program to become apprentices. The students automatically are put into their second year of the apprenticeship program as a result of their previous education from MTC.
Usher said employers recruit from MTC first before finding others for their apprentice sponsorships because MTC students already have demonstrated a desire to further their education and dedication to the trade.