Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Program
Skilled-trades workers such as HVAC technicians and electricians are among the hardest positions to fill not just for Healthcare, but across building sectors, resulting in a technical gap in workforce expertise. With the impending retirement of many of these skilled-trades workers, the need for a new generation of trained professionals that is familiar with modern, energy-efficient technology is in demand. To address this demand, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) developed its own Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Program, accredited by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. The program provides a path for individuals to develop the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience to qualify to work in the trade at the full performance level.
- UMMC is committed to reducing energy use by 20 percent by 2020 from a 2012 baseline.
- UMMC’s Operations and Maintenance department secured buy-in from the finance department by presenting the idea to split one retiree’s hourly pay into pay for two apprentices.
- To develop the apprenticeship position, UMMC altered existing skilled-trades worker job descriptions and worked with Human Resources to alter the standard job coding procedures.
Identifying the gap
The Director of Operations and Maintenance at UMMC noticed the impending retirement trend in facilities staff, with no new incoming trained professionals available to take their place. Without the succession of newly trained professionals, the Director identified a gap in technical expertise after implementing an Automated Logic building automation system (BAS). With no educational accredited trainings available for such tools, UMMC saw an opportunity to develop a program of its own.
Mapping the program
The apprenticeship curriculum grew from a collaboration between BAS technology brand Automated Logic, the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), and a committee of UMMC staff. UMMC partnered directly with the trade school and product provider in order to leverage training programs and classes already in place, ensure the apprentice was versed on the type of BAS that UMMC employs, and take advantage of developing permanent staff trained specifically on their facilities and their equipment. By learning how to monitor systems operation for effective utilization of energy by all building systems, track utility consumption, and gather data to prepare monthly forecasting of operations, the BAS apprentice would become a key team member to advance UMMC’s Better Buildings Challenge energy reduction goal.
The curriculum combined Automated Logic’s facility certified training with the core training for HVAC provided by CCBC. Courses were added to ensure compliance with state hourly requirements. Over the span of a year, UMMC gathered all necessary parties involved and the proprietary curriculum content needed to begin implementation of the apprenticeship program.
The four-year apprentice program employs one apprentice each year. The training program is organized into modules consisting of on-the-job training (30 hours per week) and classroom instruction (10 hours per week) including field work and a competency assignment.
During the program, the apprentice receives a percentage of the average pay of the position for which they are training. The apprentice begins at 55 percent with an increase in wage every six months, or as training modules are completed.
Once the curriculum was developed, the next step was petitioning for accreditation from the state. The 6-month process included the following:
- Completion of a detailed application explaining all aspects of the prospective apprenticeship program.
- Coordination with a representative at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) to ensure the program conformed to the required guidelines and template for accreditation.
- Program application presented by the DLLR representative and a review and approval from the state committee.
UMMC received approval from the state accrediting the program, which provides a certificate attesting to an individual’s qualifications upon successful completion of the training.
UMMC has looped in an additional accreditor, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Baltimore Metropolitan chapter, to leverage their training program and certification for the HVACR and Plumber apprenticeships. Upon completion, the apprentices receive the associated certificates from both the state and ABC, demonstrating their learned qualifications.
Qualifying candidates for the apprenticeship program are not required to have the technical skills needed to fulfill the position, since those skills are gained throughout the training. However, minimum qualifications must be met, including:
- Holding a high school diploma or equivalent
- Meeting the physical fitness requirements for the specific job as described
- Successfully passing a medical screening
The first apprenticeship pilot was for the Building Automation Technology & Systems position. UMMC also evaluated several critical soft skills for the Building Automation Technology & Systems initial candidate, such as advanced understanding of computers and programs that could translate to understanding the complexities of a BAS. UMMC found such a candidate with no prior technician experience ready to dive into the first pilot of the program.
UMMC expanded its apprenticeship search looking for both HVACR and Plumbing candidates. The ideal candidate for the both positions was not expected to have prior technical experience, but was required to have the right attitude and aptitude to learn as well as meet the minimum educational, physical, and medical requirements. Both the Plumber and HVACR apprentices follow the ABC accreditation class education and rate schedule requirements as specified in the ABC Baltimore Metropolitan Chapter training program.
The training program is organized into modules. Each training module sequence consists of a combination of class room instruction, on-the-job instruction with a senior journeyman, field work assignments, and a competency assessment as specified in the training curriculum.
At the beginning of each module, sequence expectations are defined. If the apprentice completes the training module in the time allocated, they continue their participation in the program and employment.
Furthermore, the UMMC Director of Operations and Maintenance coordinates weekly check-ins with the apprentices to assess their level of engagement and progress in the program, and how well they are integrating into their specific departments.
Since the program’s inception in 2014, the apprenticeship has supported the training of three skilled trade positions, including a Building Automation Technician, an HVAC technician, and a Plumber. UMMC has already begun work to develop an electrician apprenticeship position.
Over the last two years, the first apprentice has proved an asset among the staff by helping identify issues faster, addressing anomalies in the building automation program, and adjusting schedules to improve operations and maintenance efficiency. Through these measures, the BAS technician has contributed to UMMC’s overall energy cost savings of $1.6 million.
The HVAC apprentice has shifted UMMC’s maintenance program from reactive to preventative as it relates to pneumatic thermostats, valves, and equipment. Through this shift in approach, the apprentice identified pneumatic parts to replace and air leaks to repair, which without detection could have resulted in wasted energy.
The next evolution of the program is to develop an in-house succession plan from non-skilled to skilled journeymen. The plan will ensure a continuum of growth and development that secures and sustains a skilled team of trained professionals.
To overcome the impending retirement of many skilled-trades workers and the need for a new generation of trained professionals that is familiar with modern, energy-efficient technology, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) developed its own Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Program, accredited by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
Gap in staff technical expertise, workforce development, attracting new generation of trade workers
The creation of UMMC’s accredited Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Program to develop a new generation of trade workers skilled in the latest institutional and technological knowledge
In three years, the program has supported the training of three skilled trade positions, including a Building Automation Technician, an HVAC technician, and a Plumber