Retired U.S. Department of Labor Administrator Anthony Swoope speaks at an Apprenticeship Week luncheon at WCC. | Photo by Kelly Gampel


By SUSAN FERRARO, APR, Director of Media Relations

Anthony Swoope, retired U.S. Department of Labor administrator from the Office of Apprenticeship, Employment and Training Administration, spoke from the heart when he addressed a gathering of regional manufacturing companies and Washtenaw Community College Workforce Development personnel during a luncheon held at the college Nov. 15 to commemorate National Apprenticeship Week. 

“My apprenticeship blessed me with so many opportunities and involved much more than just learning a trade,” said Swoope. “It reflected a movement where I found my passion for life, gave me marketable skills and defined who I am today.”

An apprenticeship is a combination of paid on-the-job training and related classroom instruction where workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation under the guidance of a mentor.

“The value of a registered apprenticeship program is a real benefit to local communities,” said Swoope. “The apprentice learns a valuable skill that improves the quality of life for his or her family. In turn, industry gains a well-rounded and skilled person that is independent and a competent employee. This combination produces a community with a skilled and productive workforce.”

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Swoope also noted the value of an apprenticeship rests in the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another, where seasoned professionals share with younger colleagues the importance of planning, analytical thinking and working with your hands. “An apprentice learns how you get from here to there,” Swoope noted. “That’s a very important skill that must be learned on the job from someone with many years of experience.”

Also speaking at the luncheon was Jim Coutu, Business Services Manager at Michigan Works! Southeast, who outlined various grant opportunities for companies considering apprenticeship programs.

Concluding the program was WCC student Mitch Smith, currently in his third year as an apprenticeship at Milan Metals Systems. Smith spoke about how his apprenticeship changed his life and expressed gratitude for the hands-on training he is receiving from the company’s master tradesmen. 

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“Not only are they graceful and generous with their knowledge, but they also give me a sense of worth,” said Smith. “There is nothing better than hearing that you are worth something.”

WCC Dean of Apprenticeships and Skilled Trades Training Programs Marilyn Donham says the benefits of an apprenticeship to employers is not fully understood.

“The need for specialized training never ends and we continue to look for company partners who have workers who need to upgrade their skills” Donham said. “The benefits of an apprenticeship far outweigh the costs for an employer and yield great returns in terms of business expansion as well as employee productivity and retention.”


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