THE NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, NEW YORK, NY (Virtual)
MODERATOR: Morning, everyone. Let’s get started. Welcome to today’s New York Foreign Press Center briefing on the U.S. economy and addressing current labor challenges. My name is Daphne Stavropoulos and I’m today’s moderator.
It’s a pleasure to introduce our speakers, Lorraine Lane, Alan Watson, and Dr. Matthew Stinson. Ms. Lane is the Director of the Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas, which is the largest Job Corps center in the country. Job Corps is run by the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s the nation’s largest free education and job training program for young adults.
Mr. Watson is the Director of Manufacturing Sector, Gasoline Pumps at Bosch in North America. He’s responsible for the gasoline pump value stream as well as chrome plating and heat treatment facilities for the Bosch manufacturing facility in Charleston, South Carolina region. The on-site adult and youth apprentice program as well as the technical training group is under the responsibility of the human resource group Alan was very involved in.
Dr. Stinson serves as the Executive Vice President at Jordan Valley Community Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center headquartered in Springfield, Missouri with eight clinic locations. At Jordan Valley, Dr. Stinson’s leadership has led innovative solutions to meeting patient needs, such as integrating services in each clinic and developing apprenticeship and residency programs.
This briefing is on the record. The views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State or the U.S. Government are their own and do not necessarily reflect – excuse me – the views of the Department of State or U.S. government.
Following our speakers’ opening remarks, I’m going to open the floor for questions. If you have a question, go to the participant field and raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you. When called on, please enable your audio and identify your name and your outlet.
And with that, it’s a pleasure to turn over today’s – to today’s first briefer, Ms. Lane. Thank you again for joining us.
MS LANE: Thank you, Daphne, very much. Good morning, everyone. As Daphne stated, my name’s Lorraine Lane, and I have been affiliated with the Job Corps program for over 24 years. It is one of, in my opinion, the premier training program for youth in the United States.
As we are talking about apprenticeships, Job Corps is well known for its partnerships with employers and labor unions to develop and support training programs for out students. At the Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas, our center is affiliated with several apprenticeship programs, be it the Operators, Plasters, and Cement Masons International Association; we’re also affiliated with the Home Builders Institute as well as the Transportation Communications Union. And all three of those programs at Gary, they provide training support for students. Students, when they finish those programs, have the opportunities to connect with local unions in Texas or their home of record.
Most recent, the Gary Center has just established a pre-apprenticeship program with the National Flooring Contractors Association. And our programs – the beautiful thing I’d like to say about apprenticeships program is that it involves a partnership between the employer and the educational facility, and it is a union that really creates opportunities for anyone – young adults, especially, for us – to gain some extensive skill sets and to be able to go out and meet the labor needs in local communities, the state.
The San Marcos area where the Gary Center is located, we are known as the innovation corridor. There is an extensive amount of growth, labor growth here in this area and counties over. And so with that said, there’s a big labor need for contractors, welders, communications, manufacturing. And so with our partnerships with our local unions, our partnerships with apprenticeship programs, we are able – in short, that we’re providing training that meets the labor demands for Texas.
The Gary Center is also very proud in that we offer in a year’s time about 500 slots open for those training programs for our young adults that come through our doors. We have – notwithstanding the year of COVID, we do have a high placement rate for our students that leave as graduates and going on to work into either the apprenticeship programs or pre-apprenticeship programs that lead to long-term placement. And ultimately, that is the goal. We want our students to come through, obtain the quality training, and then placed into jobs that create a stream of revenue not only for them but also support within the community.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. I appreciate your opening remarks. We’re going to turn the floor over to Alan Watson.
MR WATSON: Hello, everyone. My name’s Alan Watson, and as Daphne said, I’ve been with Bosch now in Charleston for 26 years. I’m actually a mechanical engineer by degree, but I did spend three and a half years as head of our human resources group just most recently, and our human resources group is the home to our apprentice program.
Now, in Charleston and with Bosch, apprenticeships have been basically ever since the beginning with Bosch. Robert Bosch himself was actually an apprentice himself, so at our local facility we’ve been in existence here for about 45 years and we’ve had apprentice programs for over 42 of those years.
So our apprentice programs initially started out primarily with toolmaking and then industrial mechanics and also industrial electricians, but over the time, now the apprentice program has evolved to what’s the current need in manufacturing. Primarily it’s in mechatronics program, and we’ve been using solely mechatronics for the last five or so years, and we work with a local technical college called Tri-County Technical College or Trident Technical College to help support the low country area here in Charleston. That partnership was really essential for us to not only work with them and be another resource provider to help us with our apprentice program, but also to share the knowledge and experience Bosch has globally with apprenticeships with the local technical college so they can help serve the local community as well.
For our apprentice program, we run about 10 to 15 associates per year, and they start out with a – primarily working closely with the Tri-County – Trident Technical College, and then start coming on site more, and then eventually going through two, three-month rotations with mentorships – with mentors in our workshops, one in mechanical and one in electrical.
So we also have a youth apprentice program which is partnered with the local high schools, and the youth apprentice program is actually fairly new, but we were recognized as a gold standard for apprenticeships with – by the Department of Labor just a couple years ago with our involvement at that. And we’ve actually had people that started out in the youth apprentice program while they’re still in high school graduate and then come on to our adult apprentice program and now are working as technicians in our facility now. So we’ve got a really good experience with that, a really good history with that, and that’s something that we really encourage and support with our associates here long term.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Dr. Stinson.
MR STINSON: Hi, good morning. So my name is Matt Stinson. I’m a family physician by training, so that’s primary care, if you’re not familiar with that term. And I’m also executive vice president at Jordan Valley and oversee all of our medical and behavior health services as well as some of our administrative functions.
So let me just talk a little bit about our program. We’re a health care organization, and so our goal is really to provide access to care as well as build relationships with the community so that we can provide health care to them. So what happened was in 2016-ish, we were struggling with – we had students who were coming to us from technical colleges who would come in then and we would hire who weren’t ready for the work that they were – that we wanted them to do. And the other part of it is that those technical colleges wanted to also use us or other health care organizations to help them with training, so they were sometimes sending us students that we were training here, and the students were paying a fairly large amount for their schooling.
And so we said, well, if we’re going to do the training anyway, why don’t we just start an apprenticeship program, and then it also gives us the opportunity to train them the way that we want them to be trained – give them the core knowledge but also give them the on-job training that we would do in orientation anyway. And so we started that dental assistant apprenticeship program in 2016. In 2017, we started the medical assistant apprenticeship program. And so that’s been very successful in that we’ve been able to train our own and bring them in earlier. It also helps us, especially as we’ve gone through the year of COVID – years of COVID, excuse me – it has helped us be able to stay on the forefront.
And those apprenticeships are paid, so we are paying people to get that training. And then once they finish their apprenticeship, they are then – well, they’re already employees. Once they finish the apprenticeship, then their pay goes up to match the job that they’ve trained for. And so we have about 83 percent of those graduates who are still with us from that training program.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Those are really interesting perspectives. Let’s open the floor for questions and go from there. If you have a question, please raise your virtual hand and I will call on you.
Let’s go ahead to Pearl, and then I have a question that was pre-submitted as well. Pearl, feel free to enable both your video and audio when you ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for that – for the presentation. I wanted to find out where does the money come from once it’s been allocated and who’s allocating it. I just want to kind of understand clearly, when you have a plan, how do you operationalize it, like, at the start. Okay, it’s been allocated; how do you get it? How does it move for you to say, okay, day one we’re going to start? I’m not sure I’m clear on that process.
MODERATOR: Pearl, who is your question for? Lorraine, could you possibly take this question?
MS LANE: Sure, thank you. Good morning, Pearl, and thank you for that question. The Job Corps program is a federally funded program that’s operated by private contractors. So when you’re establishing an apprenticeship program, the key is to have an employer possibly as a partnership. And oftentimes, because the need for that particular labor market is so high, employers invest in the training aspect of it with an expected return that that person will come back into the market and fill that vacancy within that industry. And so the partnership is key between the entity that needs the pipeline of trained workers, and the educator, which can provide the training as they work together. So normally in most apprenticeships, the investment comes from either the employer or the training institute and a partnership between both. I hope I answered that for you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Lorraine, would you mind sharing a little bit more about what National Apprenticeship Week is? I think today is the kickoff and I think the journalists would be interested in hearing a little bit more about that.
MS LANE: No problem. So as Daphne stated, this week is National Apprenticeship Week. And so what I can tell you in the Job Corps community, one of the things we’re doing is really highlighting our partnerships on our campus. Some campuses have really gone above to make sure that they feature their partnerships. They want to make sure that the agreements that they have are viable. A lot of panel discussions are possibly going on across the country. At the Gary Center, we are highlighting young adults that have gone through and been successful during this week to hopefully promote and encourage other young adults to want to come into the Job Corps program as well as connect with an apprenticeship program.
So across this country, I’d like to think I’m correct in saying this is, is that Job Corps are really highlighting their partnerships with the apprenticeships program just to make sure that we continue on this path of partnership and meet labor-to-market demands.
MODERATOR: The Site Selectors Guild, which is an association of a world – of the world’s foremost site selector consultants, is going to reveal new data this week about the global talent shortage impact on corporations and communities. Among the findings are that companies are showing renewed interest in workforce training and placing emphasis on the proximity to higher education institutions or certificate programs amid tight labor markets. One of the questions that was submitted in advance by Yan Jin of Caijing Magazine wants to know: “Some believe burnout remain a driving force behind labor shortages. Do you agree, and if that’s true, how to change that?” And I believe the question could be – Mr. Watson, if you want to take – respond to that as well as Dr. Stinson.
MR WATSON: Okay, yeah. Just to make sure I understood, the question was about how apprenticeships can help some – solve some of this labor shortages. Is that correct? I mean —
MODERATOR: I think that’s part of it. The specific question – and if the journalist wants to read it themselves, they can, and feel free to unmute yourself if you are participating. But otherwise, it said, “Some believe burnout remains the driving force behind labor shortages.”
MR WATSON: Okay, so clearly, what’s helping to supply – helping solve some of the labor shortages, it’s clearly a reason why apprenticeships, for instance, and Bosch has started – when we first started back over 40 years ago. Whenever we launched in this location in Charleston, the region was not heavy on manufacturing. It had a large Navy and military base, Navy and Air Force base, but it had very little manufacturing. So the skills and traits needed for – to help support the location of Bosch, we started the apprentice program to help bring a supply, a pipeline – and a pipeline supply of talent to the location. And as I said, we started out with toolmaker and so forth, and now gone on to mechatronics.
Once an associate basically graduates the apprentice program, we have extremely high success rate of retention of that associate, and I think a lot of it has to do with this supporting the associates own development. Whenever you finish an apprentice program, our apprentice program was – we’re very close to a two-year degree, an associate’s degree. We’ve had many, many apprentices that have gone on and have continued their own development to a four-year degree and have actually come back and actually led our apprenticeship program and worked in other jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and HR, and all over the community.
So I think one of the biggest things we can do and we try to focus on is really supporting our associates on their own associate development paths.
MODERATOR: Dr. Stinson, did you want to comment on that?
MR STINSON: Yeah. Burnout. I do think that there have been some people who have left the workforce because of burnout, especially in health care. We’ve had some people who – and I’m thinking specifically about those that we have apprenticeship programs for – I’ll speak about that first – who have left the medical assisting or dental assisting field because of burnout. There for a little bit, when this coronavirus first came out, dental services in the United States almost shut down. So what happened was a lot of dental assistants lost their job, and I think there’s some fear also of going back into the workforce – is that going to happen again? And so people jumped professions, which has been part of the reason that the dental assistant apprenticeship program now is so important to us, to help rebuild that workforce. I think you’ve also seen that some at the provider level, from physicians and nurse practitioners and physician assistants who’ve left the workforce because of burnout.
But I don’t believe that is the major problem that we’ve seen in health care; it’s just one of the components. I do think people retired early for it, and I think that’s some of our workforce challenges around burnout – excuse me, some of our workforce challenges. But I don’t think it was the major factor for workforce shortages that we have.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question we’ll go to Alex. Alex, feel free to enable both your video and to introduce yourself and your news outlet, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Daphne. This is Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan. Very timely event. A couple of questions to put to the table; would appreciate if anyone can address them. Some claim that companies would not have labor shortages if they paid comparative rates. Do any of you agree with this? And given the timing, will labor shortages and wage increases impact prices this holiday season, in your opinion?
And separately, this might be off the topic, but I want to give it a try, because there’s a big concern for Americans across the country – is the U.S. inflation hitting 31-year high in October, as consumer prices jump 6.2 – if I’m not mistaken – percent. What are you hearing from folks in your field? Is there a policy proposal needed, you think, that could work to help stop that? Thank you so much again.
MR STINSON: So if I – I’ll take the first part of that question, because that’s the easier one for me, and you guys can deal with all the hard parts. (Laughter.)
MS LANE: Thanks, Matthew. (Laughter.)
MR STINSON: Yeah, no problem. Here for you. So your question about if pay was equitable, would that solve the problem for employers – and honestly, I don’t think that’s true. I do think that pay is a portion of the issue, but as you’ve probably seen by watching the news or just driving down the road, there are multiple places that have increased pay to try to meet some kind of threshold around poverty. And usually that’s around $15 an hour. So in my area, we’ve had ourselves who did that, there’s been two local hospitals who’ve done the same thing, and we still have the same issues with the labor shortage. And pay only keeps people happy for around 90 days, if you look at the data. Once you get past 90 days, people are always thinking about more money.
So it has to be more than just pay to keep people engaged in jobs. It makes me wonder if many generations ago, my parents, the most important thing to them about their job was stability. It wasn’t about how much money they made; they wanted a stable job. And I think that came out after World War II – people really wanted stable jobs. And I do think we might see that in the upcoming generations with all the kind of chaos that’s happening in the last few years, is that stability might become an important factor to the workforce instead of pay. So while pay’s a factor, I don’t think it again is the factor or the silver bullet to solve any kind of crisis with employment.
You guys get the hard questions, if you want to try them.
MS LANE: Yeah. (Laughter.) Thanks again, Matthew. I don’t know if I have enough data on the second two questions, but I will say, just piggybacking on what Matthew talked about, and working in a Job Corps program which is a program built on relationships and developing rapport with young people and encouraging, I think, the intrinsic value for people also has to do – has to deal with how do they feel about what they’re doing. And yes, pay is important, but it is not the driving factor. When you – if you ask someone who works in a Job Corps program, “Why do you do this type of work? Why do you work with at-risk youth?” a lot of people will tell you – and I’d venture out to say, at least 90 percent of the people will tell you, “I’m here for the students. I’m here to make a difference. I’m here to make a change.”
And stability of employment is very important. As we are talking about inflation, I think those that have stayed connected with their jobs in some way feel stability, are worried about what the inflation rate will do, but they’re also – there’s some comfort in knowing, hey, I have this job that gives me a higher intrinsic value about what I do every day. Every day that I come to this job, I am giving something back.
MR WATSON: And I think I 100 percent agree with Dr. Stinson and Lorraine about the pay side of it. I mean, Bosch, like any – all companies, I think, does a lot of research on compensation strategy to make sure we’re competitive to the local markets, to the national markets, and so forth, for the different types of fields and so forth. And yes, that may be an influence and a detraction of employee. Retention of employees is all – more about associate development and how – and associate relations and that side of things. So it’s throwing money at it. Throwing money at the salaries is not going to just solve the problem.
In our local region we have here in Charleston, it’s become a manufacturing hub that has gone from where we were the only real manufacturing location in the region to now we’re only one of many others. So now it’s really everyone competing for the same employees, so we’ve actually had to bring in a lot more people into the Charleston tri-county region, and our population has almost doubled over the last 15 years to help support those additional jobs and so forth that are needed in that region.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. We’ll go back to Pearl. Pearl, your hand is raised.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much for taking a follow-up question from me. I’d like to take you back off of something that Daphne [correction: reference is to Alan Watson] said regarding high schools, but a secondary question if I could. I’d like to hear from each of you, because we are foreign correspondents to our countries, and so what may be two top lessons that you might share with the young people who perhaps are in high school. Not everybody ends up going to a university who may just want a skill or may just need to do an internship, like you said.
What advice might you have for them to connect or lessons that you’ve learned, particularly since I write for the Swaziland News, particularly since Africa will be the largest youth boom to the world. It’s going to the biggest population boom, so a lot of jobs, or people are going to be looking for work. What one or two lessons from each of you could you share with the world? Thank you.
MR WATSON: If it’s okay, I’ll start off with this one here. I mentioned in my opening statement an item about our youth apprentice program. And with our youth apprentice program, it’s something that was – became this part of a partnership that we started with some tours with local high school students and also teachers into our facility so they could see what modern-day manufacturing is. Whenever the children are in school, they don’t see what modern-day manufacturing is. They read about what it was 20 years ago when the textbooks were written and so forth. And today, when if you walk into a modern-day manufacturing location somewhat like Bosch, it’s completely different than what they’ve learned about. So you can actually show them the types of jobs, the types of careers they can do, without having to go to a university. And I think that really helps generate the interest of students.
And then to piggy-back on that with the youth apprentice program we have, which it’s – it works almost kind of like an after-school job for high schoolers. They can start after their sophomore year in high school, so when they – in the States, here it’s whenever they have a driver’s license, they’ll go to school during the day and then the afternoon they’ll come into the companies.
And we have many companies here in the Lowcountry that are in partnerships with this because you get someone working 10 to 15 hours a week in a location as a part-time job while they’re learning a trade and learning what manufacturing and what – whether it be manufacturing health care or HVAC technician, whatever it may be. That type of exposure to that, now they have a lot better idea of what opportunities are there besides just going to a university. So it’s a great type of program like that, and so I really think partnering with local companies to try to be able to offer up more of a glimpse of what opportunities are there besides universities to high schoolers is really important in my view.
QUESTION: Thank you, Alan.
MS LANE: I think what Alan said: exposure to the young person. The more exposure you can provide to the labor market, I think hands-on is key. I think one of the most important things if I had to tell a young person something: be patient with yourself and be okay with that not everybody is going to go to a four-year university. And you can sustain a really good life in a trade school. You can earn really good money and support yourself from a trade school. And I think the more you incorporate that in the high schools so that students can choose which pathway they would like to go.
Job Corps provides various different pathways or lattices and ladders on which a young person can travel. If their interest is in construction, we provide them not just entry-level construction; but if you continue your education, if you partner and take advantage of this pre-apprenticeship program, that the earnings and your skill set can grow tremendously, and this is what the demand is.
And then we give them that hands-on experience and it creates opportunity for quick successes for them. So the more exposure you can give a young person, I think the better the opportunities you are able to provide for them as it relates to apprenticeship programs.
MR STINSON: What I would say is I think you are asking the right question for sure. We do have a shortage of skilled workers, I think, in the U.S., and because there has been such a push to go to universities, and not everybody does need to do that.
And I think going to the exposure that Lorraine mentioned and Alan mentioned is really important, so I’ll give you an example of that. So my son – I went to college and to medical school afterwards and then did residency. One of my sons – our neighbor is a welder, and so he spent time with his – our neighbor, so he’s got exposure to that job. One of the things he really is considering is maybe I don’t go to college and maybe I become a welder, because that’s a skill that is marketable, it’s good money, and it’s a hands-on kind of job which is what he likes. So exposure is important.
The second thing I would say too is I think it’s important for people who are entering the workforce now to find purpose in their job. If they find purpose in it or if they find something that they really draw into – let’s say, for instance, that’s health care, which is what I’m familiar with. So if health care is something that really – that they’re very interested in, they’re going to be driven forward with that passion. So trying to find something that is worthy of the time that we spend on it is what you do, and if that’s hands – working with your hands and doing things like that or computer work, that’s where you need to go and focus. And then there will be many opportunities within that field to learn, grow, and do what you want to do. You just need to find the right bucket that you really have a passion for.
QUESTION: Thank you, Lorraine and Andrew*, thanks.
MODERATOR: We have a question that was pre-submitted, and it has to do with best practices that you’ve experienced through the years and building your training programs. Are there specific programs, specific best practices and lessons that you’ve learned over the past few years? And that question was directed to Dr. Stinson, but please, Mr. Alan, feel free to —
MR STINSON: Good. So I can tell you a lot of mistakes we’ve made. So I mean, we’ve done a whole lot of things wrong, so let me just start at the beginning. We – our apprenticeships programs when we first started them were separate from the work we did. So if we had a dental assistant training program, they spent a lot of time with books and computers and lectures, not the best way to go about an apprenticeship program.
I think from the beginning, what we learned is that you have to have the people who are doing training as an apprentice involved somehow in the work they’re doing. For us, that’s health care, so putting the dental assistants down in that area through all their training. Even if they don’t have the skill to do dental assisting, they’re still seeing what others are doing. So they can check in people at the front desk for a period of time, they can do things on the back end with billing, and so it gives them a much broader perspective. When we first started when we had people in a room learning from a book and things to pass a test for certification, it really didn’t engage people, so that was a fail on our part.
The other thing that we have done recently which has been successful is having the manager of the area that the person’s training for be highly invested in the students who are training so that they’re almost like mentors, sponsors for them to help them get through, so that when there’s a problem, they have someone that they can go to who will help them. Instead of running those systems parallel, they have to be more integrated to make it effective.
MODERATOR: Alan, did you want to comment on this – that question?
MR WATSON: Sorry. So I mean, I think what Dr. Stinson said as well I think is something that’s – is really critical. Our instructors that we have for our apprentice program are people who have worked in manufacturing, worked in similar jobs and have similar backgrounds as the same profession we’re trying to train – train with the apprentices. So I think having good mentors and good trainers that really can give that exposure and that feedback of the types of skills and traits that are needed for the apprenticeship program are extremely critical.
And we also – we have changed the ratio of how much time is spent in the classroom on the theoretical versus how much time is actually spent on – out on the shop floor and in labs and so forth. We’ve changed that back and forth over the years. When I say back and forth, we’ve evolved it to try to always enhance our training methods to make sure the final product, which is basically a trained apprentice that really meets the needs of our company, that best meets the needs of our company, is the final product that we produce. So we’re always optimizing, looking for feedback from the employers that the apprentices go into and try to make sure we continue to evolve, realize that if we would not evolve, we would still be teaching everyone how to be a toolmaker like we started out over – almost 45 years ago at our facility, and we don’t need that many toolmakers anymore. We have a lot more electronics and mechatronics needs, so you have to always evolve the program based upon your needs.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. For the journalists who are participating in the Zoom, feel free to raise your virtual hand if you have a question. We’d be happy to call on you. And also take this moment to invite anyone who’s called in on the phone to ask a question. To enable the audio, I think you press *6.
I will go on to another question that was pre-submitted, and maybe Ms. Lane, you just can – you can address this question. It has to do with retraining and upscaling workers and how that compares to – you’ve talked a lot about youth apprenticeship programs on this briefing today. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges of upscaling and retraining workers?
MS LANE: Sure. It kind of goes hand in hand to the previous question. The flexibility of your programming needs to be there, and you must listen to what the labor market demands are from the employers that you’re partnering with as well as the community resources that you may have or community partnerships that you may have. Some of the challenges in being with the labor market demands or the training skill sets that you need is to be able to ensure that the young adult that we work with can quickly adapt to whatever that may be.
Alan kind of talked about 45 years ago making hand tools versus where Bosch is now. Well, that holds true in your training method, how you go about training. There’s more technology involved. So as a program, we have to adjust to that, making sure we have the laptops, the smart boards, the WiFi, the bandwidth, all those things that are needed to be competitive not only just in a labor market but competitive in a training market.
So those are a few challenges, I would say. I think that we have the young adults that want to be in our programs – that’s not such a big challenge – but making sure that we stay competitive in the training field.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. I think we’re just about out of time. I wanted to invite our speakers today to make any closing remarks.
If not, I want to thank each of you for participating. Alan, I didn’t want to cut you off. I apologize.
MR WATSON: No, you’re fine.
MODERATOR: Today’s briefing was on the record and I will share the transcript once it is available, probably later today, and it will also be posted on our website. Again, thank you again for participating and have a good day, good morning.
MS LANE: Thank you, Daphne.
MR WATSON: Thanks. Bye-bye.