A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Mubea set to graduate first apprentices; $2 million program designed to help ensure quality workforce

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A group of nine students will be recognized as the first Northern Kentucky graduates of Mubea North America’s apprenticeship program tonight in a ceremony at Triple Crown Country Club in Union.

The Tribune talked with members of that class and Mubea executives about the value of the program and its potential impact in the region.

The Mubea apprenticeship program is patterned after the model used by the German-based automobile parts manufacturer in its home country. That program, which has been in existence for nearly a century, is recognized as the gold standard within the industry.

Mubea has invested more than $2 million in the apprenticeship program.

Cain (provided photo)

Cain (provided photo)

Luigi Tiddia, general Manager of Mubea’s Hose Clamps division, said the program provides a great opportunity for students and helps the company develop a quality workforce in the region.

“We did not see the market having the kind of expertise that we are looking for,” Tiddia said. “The outline is our ‘driven by the best’ environment, which is a strategy to develop the students in the way that we need them to be.”

Mubea North America CEO Doug Cain said a key aspect of the program is helping the students realize that they are not just training for a job, they are preparing to join the Mubea family.

“I want this to be a place that they are so proud of that they want to have their friends and relatives working beside them, Cain said. “The majority of people in the program are just coming out of high school, and they need to have a sense of quality, which is harder and harder to come by in today’s world.”

Colin Chazuka is an exception in the first group of graduates. He is 40 years old and was already working for Mubea when he entered the apprenticeship program.

Mubea North AMerica apprenticeship/training manager Drew Farris (light blue shirt) with apprentices (left to right) Jesse Phillips, Lance Purcell, Nick Eubanks, Colin Chazuka and Matt Ryan

Mubea North America apprenticeship/training manager Drew Farris (light blue shirt) with apprentices (left to right) Jesse Phillips, Lance Purcell, Nick Eubanks, Colin Chazuka and Matt Ryan (photo by Mark Hansel)

Chazuka, who is originally from Jamaica but now lives in Fort Mitchell, said age was not a deterrent to his entry into the program and Mubea encourages non-traditional students to apply.

“I don’t think it’s ever too late,” Chazuka said. “Having a career covers your back and if you want to move to another state or something, you have skills to offer an employer.”

The three-year North American apprenticeship program allows students to get paid while earning a degree and preparing for a career in the advanced manufacturing industry. They come out of the program completely debt free, with a trade and a professional career.

The starting wage within the program is $13.63 per hour and students can expect to earn around $50,000 in their first year after graduation.

Mubea partners closely with Gateway Technical and Community College on the curriculum.

“That relationship, from our perspective, has been positive,” Cain said. They have been willing to work with us and modify their program to match the German curriculum, so we have no concerns about that. Our program is viewed as a model by the governor’s office and for the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association (KAIA).”

Cain says much of the success of the program goes to Drew Farris, apprenticeship/training manager for Mubea North America. He compared Farris to a den father of a group of scouts.

“He knows their families by name and communicates about their progress,” Cain said. “Our success rate so far, has exceeded our expectations.”

Farris said it has been rewarding for him as well, to see the success, not only of the program, but of the young men participating in it.

“These guys, are the foundation of our apprenticeship program,” Farris said. “Their character and the way they have matured and developed into young men makes me proud that they are a part of Mubea.”

There are about 45 students in the apprenticeship pipeline and only a handful have left the program.
Tiddia also gives a lot of credit to the mentors and trainers, primarily senior maintenance engineers and toolmakers within the company, who embraced the opportunity to training students the Mubea way.

Tiddia

Tiddia

“Your program can be as good as you want, but if the people don’t believe in that, it can be difficult,” Tiddia said. “What we are trying to embed in these young people are the values that we have. The cultural fit is a very important part of working at Mubea.”

The goal right now is to have 12 apprentices join the program every year. Over time, Mubea will determine whether to increase capacity, but Cain said 20 is probably the maximum per year.

“That’s about all we feel like we can manage effectively through the process,” he said.

Tiddia said Mubea started the program not only to develop its own workforce, but to generate interest from a wider range of students about careers in advanced manufacturing throughout the region.

“You cannot be the lone rider and you have to support your community with a pipeline of people,” Tiddia said. “If we don’t do that, in the long term, we won’t be successful here because we will never have enough people to hire.”

The apprentices commit to work at Mubea for three years, and can then elect to stay, or move on.

“It is our job as a company to not let that happen, by creating a meaningful, challenging and safe work environment,” Tiddia said. Our biggest challenge is still that we introduce into this community what working in advanced manufacturing means.”

Because there are a limited number of apprenticeships available, the competition is stiff. Only the best and the brightest are accepted into the program and, while the rewards are great, it is no picnic.

“Our program is very demanding because our guys are working 40 hours a week and going to school, so you are a full-time student with a full time job,” Tiddia said. “That’s why whoever can make it through this program will be an excellent addition to the workforce, because they are committed, they are dedicated.”

Lance Purcell, 21, of Erlanger, said you have to really want it, in order to be successful.

“For three years, your life is Mubea and Gateway,” Purcell said. “It’s not for everyone. You really have to be committed and it should be something you enjoy doing.”

The apprentices say the exceptional starting pay in a field with long-term stability, without having to incur any debt, is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“The other thing is that Drew and the company work with you, so you are still able to balance school and a home life and get some money in your pocket,” Chazuk said.

Cain said Mubea has also started an apprenticeship program in Mexico and part of the experience includes sending apprentices over to Germany for what he call home-and-away cross training.

“If someone wants to see the world and have a professional career, they certainly have that option with Mubea and we want them to see that early on,” Cain said.

Several of the apprentices say that while the trips abroad were challenging, they also demonstrated the possibilities that a career with Mubea can provide.

Nick Eubanks of Taylor Mill, has been to Germany and Mexico as an apprentice.

“It’s different, for sure,” Eubanks, 21, said. “The language barrier was probably the biggest challenge.”

The culture shock of travel abroad caused what was probably apprentice Matt Ryan’s most embarrassing moment in the program. Upon returning from Germany, the 21-year-old from Hebron walked into a restaurant and asked the cashier if she spoke English.

“The guys have had a lot of fun with that,” Ryan said.

The training is comprehensive, but Eubanks said the instructors are patient and supportive.

“They don’t expect you to know everything coming in as a young kid fresh out of high school,” Eubanks said.

The students compared their initial experience to that of a journeyman in the trade.

“When we first started here we were painting walls, Purcell said. “They started us with busy work, but then we went through the processes in each building.”

All of the apprentices graduate with a job inside of one of Mubea’s business units.

Mubea has invested more than $200 million in North America since 2010, 80 percent of that in Northern Kentucky, so the company’s commitment to the region is unwavering.

The Mubea North American Headquarters on Industrial Road is one of three of the company's manufacturing facilities in Northern Kentucky. Mubea has invested an estimated $160 million in the region since 2010.

The Mubea North American Headquarters on Industrial Road is one of three facilities in Northern Kentucky. Mubea has invested an estimated $160 million in the region since 2010.

That said, the region must be able to supply the quality work force that will allow Mubea and the region’s other manufacturers to remain competitive.

There are stories written every day about the thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs, regionally and nationwide, that go unfilled because there are not enough qualified workers

“For us the challenge is getting more people in the pipeline at an earlier level,” Cain said. “This includes doing more classroom visits, having classrooms come and visit our facilities, so they can see that manufacturing is somehow a little bit different.”

While the number of available jobs continues to outpace qualified workers, Tiddia says that because of initiatives such as the apprenticeship program, Mubea North America is poised to become a talent export.

“In the past, our location in North America was an importer of talent, where we needed a lot of support,” Tiddia said. “Now, after almost 30 years established here, and with our apprenticeship program, we believe within the next three or four years, we will be able to support other parts of our Mubea family worldwide with highly qualified people.”

Cain said that while apprenticeship opportunities are limited, other avenues, such as co-operative programs, are available for students and others seeking a career in advanced manufacturing.

“We have availability today, right now,” Cain said. “We are probably net adding about 250 positions and by the time you factor in normal turnover, we are probably looking at 500 jobs in the next two years.

The region’s advanced manufacturing companies have developed a strong relationship with the local school districts. Students interested in exploring a career in advanced manufacturing are encouraged to contact a school guidance counselor.

Additional 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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