An apprenticeship program launched by BASF last year has gone so well that the company is offering it again and expecting even more quality employees.
One of the reasons for the program is the tight labor market across the country. The demand for skilled workers remains high.
A few weeks ago, the company announced that to meet this challenge, BASF was expanding its North American Apprenticeship Development Program and welcoming nearly 100 apprentices to 20 manufacturing sites across the country.
The program offers a unique opportunity to gain on-the-job training and earn industry-recognized credentials while receiving a full-time salary.
The company’s slate of new apprentices for 2022 includes an average female selection rate of 44%, further supporting the company’s goal of increasing the number of women in manufacturing.
In May 2021, BASF Wyandotte was one of the first company facilities to launch the apprenticeship program to develop a pipeline to meet future talent needs for a skilled and diverse workforce of technicians, with a focus on attracting more women to these roles.
One of the people who took advantage of the opportunity was Emily Canfield from Southgate.
Canfield began his eight-month apprenticeship at the BASF Wyandotte site at the Polyol plant.
“I wanted a job that offered a future and to belong to a company where I could continually learn and grow,” she said. “I wanted to do something that would allow me to stay active and productive. I like being hands-on and working at BASF ticked all those boxes.
For Canfield, who had never worked in a manufacturing or warehouse environment, this role offered real on-the-job training. She was supervised by Amanda Taylor, BASF Wyandotte Polyol Operations Manager, who introduced her to the Polyol team and lined her up with a shift supervisor.
There was a learning curve starting with the basics – safety protocols, trainings and operating a hi-lo for the first three months of the program. Canfield opted to start her shift earlier to align with other employees’ start times and attend a pre-shift meeting that helped her build rapport with the team.
Canfield’s 40-hour work week included classes two days a week to earn a certificate in process technology from Henry Ford College in Dearborn.
The BASF apprenticeship program is full-time direct hire and pays a competitive full-time salary, offers benefits, and covers tuition, books, and fees associated with the certificate program.
“The hardest part of the program was juggling work and school with my home life,” she said. “I’m a wife and mother of two young boys, so getting it all to fit into a day was quite a challenge.”
The BASF Polyol factory has assigned dedicated trainers to teach Canfield the kegging process, which involves filling tubs and drums.
As she increased her knowledge and skills, she began working overtime in the middle of her training to complete tasks and help deliver customer shipments.
The added dedication to his job also gave Canfield the opportunity to work with operators, gaining valuable knowledge and skills during his regular shift.
Throughout her training, Canfield supervisors said she took on projects including reorganizing the battery office, helping implement lean practices and more. It helped her network and learn different skills. She was also able to connect with Taylor on a daily basis to learn from her manufacturing experiences at BASF.
“Emily and I worked together to prioritize tasks to align with her development,” Taylor said. “We had conversations about her experiences with her classes and discussed what she can learn here at Polyol. It was important to me that Emily knew she could pursue a career at BASF.
Last October, Canfield qualified for the drumming process and was ready to move on to her next qualification in the tank farm. By the end of the training program, she knew everyone in the plant and had paired up with tank farm operators on her own to follow them on the job to gain more experience.
After completing the apprenticeship program, Canfield was onboarded as a chemical operator at Polyol in January.
“Hiring in the manufacturing industry was a major change for me and my family,” Canfield said. “This program provided a great opportunity and was essential to my transition into this profession.”
Jonathan Weatherly, vice president of operations at BASF Corp., thanked everyone associated with the apprenticeship program for its success.
“I am proud of everyone who has contributed to the success of this program at Wyandotte,” he said. “Certainly, the program architecture set us up for success, but we couldn’t have succeeded without leaders creating an inclusive learning environment and those who were willing to work hard and learn something new.”
The apprenticeship program will resume its second cohort in August and company officials are excited to know how many qualified candidates will apply. They say it provides an opportunity to embark on a great career with immediate competitive pay, while developing their skills on the job.
The starting salary is $18 per hour and progresses to $21 per hour.
BASF was not immune to the so-called “big quit” that followed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Weatherly said BASF Wyandotte still has a strong core of experienced employees who remain with the company, employees who contribute to the success of the apprenticeship program.
The program emphasizes attracting female employees, but both women and men are accepted. The industry has always attracted men, which is one of the reasons for wanting to attract more women.
Weatherly said there are a number of reasons more women haven’t chosen manufacturing as a career path.
“A lot of people think they don’t have the training or the education,” he said. “Historically, men grew up in dad’s garage, or whatever life experience they had in place to succeed. The apprenticeship program removes those barriers. Experience is not required.
Weatherly said he thinks another downside to attracting more women into manufacturing has to do with the fact that they don’t have many role models. But with three daughters of his own, he sees change isn’t just on the horizon, in many ways it’s already happened.
“That was 30 years ago,” he said. “I have seen huge changes in our industry. There are many more people to admire.
Referring to the apprentices, Weatherly said they were intentionally paired with mentors from the company’s manufacturing team, which now includes many more women than in the past.
“The beauty of this cohort is that success breeds success,” Weatherly said. “With more and more women in our population, it becomes less alien. It makes our demographics look like outside of our fence.
Under the pilot program, 10 apprentices were hired. In the second cohort, the company is targeting 10 to 15 apprentices.
It may not seem like much, but the program brought out several candidates who already had the qualifications to be hired immediately. The company’s Wyandotte factory pilot program attracted nearly 200 applicants.
“Based on the great interest, we did direct hires last year,” Weatherly said. “We told them ‘You are qualified – you can work for us today.'”
Hiring skilled employees is important in all professions and industries, but manufacturing is particularly challenging.
The National Association of Manufacturers predicts a labor shortage of 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030, which has been further tested by the COVID-19 pandemic.
BASF, along with other companies in the industry, are focused on developing a skilled and diverse talent pool, which company officials say is key to meeting its staffing needs and ensuring success. continuity of its activities and manufacturing.
Candidates interested in applying for the apprenticeship program can do so until June 17.