A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Mubea North America graduates NKY apprenticeship class, Labor Secretary Ramsey is keynote

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTibune managing editor

Mubea North America graduated its third class of apprentices in an event at the Metropolitan Club in Covington Monday evening. Just as with the first two classes, Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey was on hand to congratulate them.

Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey (right) and Ervin Dimeny, commissioner of the State Department of Workplace Standards were on hand for the Mubea Apprenticeship Graduation. Ramsey has attended every graduation and his first public appearance as Labor Secretary was at the graduation of Mubea’s inaugural class (photos by Mark Hansel).

Ramsey said one of his responsibilities as Labor Secretary is to assist companies that move to Kentucky with finding employees.

He told the ten apprentice graduates and their families that they are in the right place at the right time, right now. They are positioned, perhaps better than any group preparing to enter the workforce in Kentucky in a long time, for unlimited opportunities to succeed.

“We’re having a record year in economic development, so I haven’t been sleeping as much as I normally do,” Ramsey said.

In 2015, the Commonwealth of Kentucky set a record in 2015, by bringing in $5.2 billion in new businesses in the state of Kentucky.

Through July of this year, Kentucky has seen $7.7 billion in economic development and could approach 9 billion by year’s end.

“That means, with all of these new businesses and the existing businesses, we have to find people to fill those jobs,” Ramsey said. “At present in the Commonwealth, we have over 200,000 unfilled jobs and we are looking at by 2024 that number could be as much as 700,000.”

The point in sharing those numbers with the graduating apprentices, Ramsey said, is that there are plenty of good jobs in Kentucky right now, and there will be even more in the future.

Click to enlarge

Ramsey said Kentucky is an attractive location for people, and companies, to relocate because of where it is positioned in the country.

“We are right now, in a sweet spot right,” Ramsey said. “For you, young people, this means incredible opportunities”

Ramsey is well known in the Commonwealth and beyond in the athletic and education arenas, as well as in his current role.

He was the first African-American starting quarterback in the University of Kentucky’s history and led the Wildcats to a 10-1 season. He also rack up numerous personal accolades including first team All-Southeastern Conference and third-team All-American.

He followed that up with a successful nine-year NFL career that included Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

Ramsey also spent much of his professional career in higher education. He was an athletic director at the university level for 12 years and was the head of development for the Lexington Campus of the University of Kentucky.

“One of the things I got a chance to see was, in particular when I was an athletic director at these small universities, these young people would run up all kinds of debt (as much as $70,000),” Ramsey said. “Then they would go out and find a job making $30,000 a year. I thought it was criminal, because with all of this desire that you had, this is my reward. That’s not a reward, it’s death sentence.”

Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey address the graduates of the Mubea Apprenticeship class in a ceremony at the Metropolitan Club in Covington Monday night (click to enlarge).

The average advanced manufacturing apprentice in America today makes about $60,000 upon completion of training, according to Ramsey.

“In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the median income for a family of four is between $39,000 and $45,000,” Ramsey said. “So if you are making $50,000 to $60,000 a year, you are doing pretty well.”

As journeymen, those that graduate in Kentucky are also certified to utilize their skills and training anywhere in the United States, or in many countries around the world.

Ramsey, who has spent more than 40 years in Kentucky said he has never seen these kinds of opportunities in the state.

“Everywhere we go, from the far east, to the far west, the constant cry is, ‘we need skilled labor,’” Ramsey said.

Mubea manufactures automotive components, such as springs, hose clamps and stabilizer bars. It started operating in Kentucky in 1982.

Mubea has invested more than $200 million in North America since 2010, 80 percent of that in Northern Kentucky. The company employs 10,500 worldwide, including 1,400 in the region.

The company opened a state-of-the-art tailored rolled blank advanced manufacturing facility in Northern Kentucky in 2013 – the first of its kind in North America. It is nearing completion on a $60 million expansion of the facility that is expected to begin production early next year.

Apprentice graduate Tyler LaBare was on the fast track from the time he entered Mubea as a Maintenance Apprentice and discovered his love for machining.

Soon after changing his major to Machine Tool Technology, Mubea discovered his ability to share his knowledge with others and promoted him to a lead apprentice.

His responsibilities included mentoring the first year apprentices and assisting in training others. During this time, he was able to travel to Germany and be the first Apprentice to attend the Mubea Academy of Apprenticeship.

For three months he worked side-by-side with German craftsmen and the North American Apprenticeship Manager. One year later, he was able to return to Germany and share with his German colleagues his ability to program and set up CNC 5 axis equipment that he could not perform the previous year.

“It got a little tough sometimes, going to work and going to school, but it was definitely worth it.” LaBare said.

Three years into his apprenticeship, LaBare now shares his teaching abilities as an instructor at Gateway Community and Technical College, teaching machine tool courses.

“It feels great getting all the experience and living in Germany, I really learned a lot,” LaBare said. “I was going down a career path that I didn’t think had a great future, then I found Mubea. It helped me become a better person and a man, and I can provide for my family now.”

For three years, Mubea Apprenticeship Manager Drew Farris (center) helped carry 10 young men through the rigors of simultaneous education and training. Monday they returned the favor. Mubea Apprentice/Tool Shop & Hose Clamp Manager Luigi Tiddia is at far left, Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey is at far right.

LaBare, 23 is a graduate of Simon Kenton High School, is getting married next year and is ready to continue moving forward in his career.

Mubea North America apprenticeship manager Drew Farris, also addressed the group he has watched over for three years.

“I’m very proud of each and every one of you, not just for all of the hard work, but for putting up with me,” he said.

Farris used a Rubik’s cube to illustrate the success the apprentices have achieved, pointing out that only 6 percent of people in the world can solve the puzzle.

“The Rubik’s Cube is a lot like life,” he said. “When you buy it all the colors are lined up perfect, but when you make decisions and choices, the cube gets all mixed up.”

As Farris talked, he kept spinning the cube, getting it more and more out of alignment.

“You have relationships in life, you make education choices, career choices and you kind of get all mixed up, too,” Farris said. “Life’s kind of puzzle. It’s just like this Rubik’s cube, you make all these different decisions, but each time you learn different things.”

When Farris started at Mubea, he said his goal was to run a coiling machine. He started out as a temporary employee making $4.10 an hour and all he thought about was to get to a point where he was making $8.90 an hour.

“All I thought about was making the next step in pay, but then I met the right mentor” Farris said, turning the cube all the while. “Apprenticeship is kind of like that, you don’t know what you want to do, until you make the right turn. Then things start falling into place, just like the Rubik’s cube.”

Farris asked each of the apprentices what their career path was before, and even after, they came to Mubea and got a wide range of answers that had little to do with the path they are on now.

“People will tell you things in life that you can and can’t do,” Farris said. But you stuck with it, and you became something. That’s what so amazing about this group in this room right now, you set a goal and you’ve done it.

This would have been the perfect time for Farris to display the completed Rubik’s Cube, but, unfortunately he is not among the 6 percent. The completed Rubik’s Cube he displayed was perfectly aligned, but it was a prop.

Still, the message was not lost on the 10 men in the room who recognized that, because of their three-year-commitment to the Mubea Apprenticeship Program, their futures were aligned pretty well.

Michael Jacobs was born in Edgewood and grew up in Dry Ridge and he knows a little something about the twists and turns in life.

Mubea Apprenticeship Manager Drew Farris with program graduates Michael Jacobs, left and Tyler LaBare.

He joined the military when he was 17 and served overseas in Iraq. He then moved to Florida and took a job selling tires and working on cars, but wasn’t happy with his life’ direction.

“I moved back to Kentucky and found out about the apprenticeship program at Mubea,” Jacobs said. “They were willing to pay for my college and the military was willing to pay me to go to college and it was a no-brainer from there.”

Now 28 and married, Jacobs is excited about the future he can provide for himself and his wife, Mya.

“It was rough and I knew had some long day ahead of me, but my military experience helped me with that and now I’m glad it’s over,” Jacobs said. “It feels great.”

The Mubea apprenticeship program has been in existence in Germany, where the company is based, for 100 years. The Northern Kentucky apprenticeship is modeled after that program, which is recognized worldwide as the industry leader.

The program allows students to work and get paid while going to school and earn a certification in their chosen field without any education-related debt.

Mubea invests 2.8 million in its North American Apprenticeship program each year. It has graduated nine apprentices each of the previous two years and has more than 30 students in the pipeline.

In addition to the apprenticeship program, Mubea offers other opportunities, such as co-operative programs, for students and others seeking a career in advanced manufacturing.

Information for those interested in Mubea North America apprenticeships, or other career opportunities is available here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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