Siemens CEO encourages creation of apprenticeship programs

Manchester : Schools and businesses need to do a better job of establishing and selling the value of apprenticeship programs to help develop skilled workers in a tight labor market, according to the CEO of Siemens USA.

“It’s an unfortunate perception that the goal of these training programs is to engage young people who are maybe not doing so well in school,” Eric Spiegel during a keynote address at the governor’s summit on work-based learning. “That is not true,” he said. “It’s really about engaging young people and connecting them with the right people with the right skills and especially those who are ambitious and have the raw smarts.”

Siemens, which employs 25 people in Portsmouth, has set up apprenticeship programs around the country where students can get paid while they learn, earn a degree and an international certificate, as well as walk away with a job with a starting salary of $55,000 and no college debt, he said.

That compares to a liberal arts major earning $40,000 to start with $27,000 to $30,000 worth of debt, he said. Cindy Medeiros, the technology integrator at Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, liked his message. “I think we put too much emphasis on going to college. College is not for everyone,” Medeiros said. “We also need people to do these trade kind of jobs.”

Spiegel, a member of the Board of Overseers at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, challenged businesses to help develop skilled workers.

“Before I go, I want to encourage employers here today, if you aren’t already, to get involved in proactively building your workforce,” Spiegel said. “It doesn’t have to be an apprenticeship program. It could be a shadowing opportunity or it could be an internship. What matters is that you’ve engaged talented youth and (are) helping them and … keeping them in New Hampshire in the long run, so take this first step and together let’s close the training gap and rebuild America’s middle class.”

Spiegel also chairs the Siemens Foundation, which has partnered with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. New Hampshire has been chosen as one of six states in a project to create effective work-based learning models and help adopt them in the schools. The states also received a $100,000 grant from the NGA Center.

The summit at Manchester Community College included various panel discussions, including “Pathways to Prosperity, Jobs for the Future.” Spiegel said he didn’t fault students because “they don’t understand what kind of training they need to get the jobs they want.” The economy is ever-changing, he added. “In 10 years, 50 percent of this year’s college graduates will be in careers that don’t exist today just like 50 percent of the new jobs being created today didn’t exist 10 years ago,” Spiegel said.

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