Joliet Junior College Partners with U.S. Water Culligan Group:
The common theme among employers is the shortage of skilled workers and the challenge to fill a significant number of open positions within their company. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high yet several career opportunities go unfilled because job seekers don’t always have the technical skills or experience that aligns to these positions. Many companies, regardless of industry sector or occupation, have been impacted by this skills gap and continuously search for innovative ways to develop their talent pipeline. One forward-thinking approach is to reimagine the workforce strategy through a Registered Apprenticeship program.
Joliet Junior College and U.S. Water Culligan Group are partnering through JJC’s Registered Apprenticeship program to develop a talent pipeline of skilled workers to fulfill the company’s workforce needs. Apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job learning with related instruction in technical areas to produce qualified, highly skilled employees for careers that require precision skills.
Randy Easton, president of U.S. Water Culligan Group states, “The current job market is the tightest we’ve ever seen and matching skills and interests of an employee with the requirements of the job is very challenging. We feel an apprenticeship program will help us identify people who have an interest in technical, service-related or administrative positions.”
The pandemic has greatly affected all industry sectors but in very different ways. Easton explains, “In spite of high unemployment in some areas those out of work tend to be those whose work experience is in food service, hospitality, entertainment, etc. Meanwhile, service-related and technical businesses – those that serve homeowners, for example – are experiencing brisk business at this time and in need of more people but the skills of those without employment often don’t match up with the needs of the jobs that are open.”
“There are currently approximately 12 million unemployed people in the U.S. but also 6.5 million job openings. If those out of work could fill the positions that are available the unemployment rate would drop back to the 3.5% level that existed pre-COVID,” adds Easton. Despite this situation, however, industry and educators have a unique opportunity to think outside of the box in order to resolve and overcome these workforce challenges.
U.S. Water Culligan Group operates as an independent business within a worldwide structure of Culligan International. Culligan International, headquartered in Chicago, IL, is the leader in the water treatment industry and for more than 80 years, has been delivering customized solutions addressing water issues with a broad range of residential, commercial and industrial products. U.S. Water Culligan Group is headquartered in Wheeling, Illinois and operates from 19 separate locations, covering Illinois, Nevada, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C.
The initial areas of focus for U.S. Water Culligan Group include residential and commercial service technicians, route management and delivery and drivers for vehicles requiring commercial licensing certification (CDL). There is also potential for the company to expand the apprenticeship program into other positions as the partnership with JJC evolves. Since there are over 2,000 industry-approved occupations through the United States Department of Labor (DOL), there are a variety of career pathways available.
In addition to serving as the program sponsor, Joliet Junior College also provides the related technical instruction for the apprenticeship program. Easton added, “JJC is a well-known and respected school that offers a broad range of curriculum that attracts a wide variety of students who want to further their education and seek specific skills that would be valuable to them in the job market.”
Another benefit for employers to offer an apprenticeship program is employee retention. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 94% of apprentices retain employment after completing an apprenticeship program.
Apprenticeship programs have the potential to create a ripple effect that is far reaching. This workforce strategy is not only a win-win for businesses and educators but also for job seekers and the overall job market.
Amy Murphy, dean, applied arts, workforce education & training at JJC said, “We look forward to partnering with U.S. Water Culligan Group and creating a synergy that will be instrumental in our efforts to bridge the skills gap.” Murphy added, “We’re here to assist employers as well as job seekers through our apprenticeship program by providing the resources and training they need to be successful.”
JJC is the sponsor of a registered apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) with industry-approved occupations representing industry sectors in: advanced manufacturing, culinary arts/hospitality, horticulture/landscaping, transportation/logistics and healthcare.
JJC has a three-year apprenticeship grant through the American Association of Community Colleges/Expanding Community College Apprenticeships initiative. This cooperative agreement between the US DOL and AACC’s ECCA initiative provides JJC with an opportunity to assist the local workforce by growing the number of registered apprenticeships.