In 2016 Oatey launched its first Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship Program, designed to promote the advancement of operations associates into higher-skilled positions that are more aligned with their long-term career goals. It also leverages additional career-development opportunities for the company’s more experienced associates, allowing them to hone their leadership, training, and mentoring skills while working with a diverse group of apprentices.

Oatey’s registered apprenticeship program, which is based at its Cleveland manufacturing facility and led by maintenance supervisor Ruben Santos, is sponsored by Manufacturing Works and regulated through the State of Ohio. As the sponsor Manufacturing Works helps manage the program and provides Oatey with continuous expert guidance about how to offer the most cutting-edge resources for associates. “Since its inception, the program has received a tremendous response, and associate participation continues to grow,” Santos said

To date the program has included three groups, including a total of six registered apprentices. Every other year Oatey anticipates adding a new cohort to the program roster. “We continue to maintain 100% retention of associates who participate in the apprenticeship program,” Santos said.

Oatey’s inaugural group of two apprentices successfully completed all of the program’s training requirements in 2020, and two deserving individuals earned the title of journeyman. After graduating from the program, these individuals have gone on to advance their careers.

“Our journeymen continue to embody the spirit of Oatey and set a positive example for fellow associates,” Santos said. There are currently two active cohorts with four apprentices making their way through the program. All current apprentices are from underrepresented groups (Hispanic and African-American). Oatey also recently welcomed its first female apprentice, who will graduate as part of the third cohort. Oatey’s commitment to small cohorts ensures personal attention to the apprentices’ development.

When the need for new apprentices is determined, positions are opened and the application, recruiting, and selection process begins. The four-year program welcomes applications from any active operations associate in good standing, including those at Cleveland manufacturing and distribution facilities. The selection process for admission is rigorous. Applicants must display a strong work ethic, reliable attendance record, commitment to Oatey, and passion for skilled technical work.

Prior to acceptance new candidates for apprenticeship must provide evidence of earning their high school diploma or GED and complete a mechanical aptitude test and a college admissions placement exam to ensure successful completion of the program.

The Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship is a hybrid program that offers both in-classroom instruction with college credit and on-the-job training (OJT). Oatey partners closely with Cuyahoga Community College to deliver a robust, specialized curriculum to complement the OJT that takes place at the Oatey facility. Every apprentice must complete up to 10,000 hours of OJT.