Apprenticeship Trains New Supervisors

Pedro Juan Alicea Jr.

When Pedro Juan Alicea Jr. was promoted to a supervisor position, he felt unprepared for his new role. Enrolling in a Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program, however, allowed Pedro to develop confidence in himself, his abilities, and his future. 

At eighteen years old, Pedro started his RA journey as a laborer with Columbia Manufacturing Inc. in Westfield, Massachusetts. He worked as a welder and fabricator before transitioning into a supervisor role for his department. Now, he focuses on producing furniture for schools and colleges around the country.

“Not having gone to college, I didn’t think I could do it,” he admitted.

This kind of imposter syndrome is common in manufacturing, where supervisors are often chosen from production employees. This transition often presents challenges because new supervisors are offered little training and thus are not prepared for their new responsibilities. 

Pedro Juan Alicea Jr.

With the support of his employer, however, Pedro enrolled in the Front Line Supervisor Apprenticeship sponsored by MassMEP, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Massachusetts. Jobs for the Future (JFF) supports the MassMEP program with technical and financial assistance through its Improving Diversity and Equity in Apprenticeships for Manufacturing (IDEA-M) project. Karen Myhaver, program manager for the Front Line Supervisor Apprenticeship, noted that the program was created back in 2019 as a response to requests from the state’s manufacturers.

Apprentices in this one-year apprenticeship program complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, as well as 150 hours of related training. These hours are dedicated to leadership, manufacturing principles, and problem-solving. Additionally, apprentices gain skills and knowledge they can put into practice immediately. As a capstone project, each apprenticeship develops solutions to problems in their respective workplaces. At the end of the program, apprentices gather in person to present these capstone projects.

Pedro completed the program in March 2022, and he feels that the program did an excellent job preparing him for his supervisor role at Columbia Manufacturing. He encourages anyone to take advantage of opportunities through Registered Apprenticeship programs: “Don’t be afraid. When opportunity knocks, you open that door.”

Publish Date: 12/18/2023

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