Laron, MCC join forces

Machinist apprentice program now in development stages

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<br>
Laron Engineering has partnered with Mohave Community College to offer a four-year millwright and machinist apprenticeship program. George Williams, right, will be the instructor of the class. Paul Nicholson, one of his potential students, is shown putting a radius on a key on a milling machine at Laron Engineering on Wednesday.

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<br> Laron Engineering has partnered with Mohave Community College to offer a four-year millwright and machinist apprenticeship program. George Williams, right, will be the instructor of the class. Paul Nicholson, one of his potential students, is shown putting a radius on a key on a milling machine at Laron Engineering on Wednesday.

KINGMAN – The idea of on-site training did not even cross John Hansen’s mind when the general manager of Laron Inc., tried to hire machinists and millwrights to fill vacancies 10 months ago.

But Hansen soon realized that there were not enough qualified applicants locally to meet his needs. Later attempts to attract people to jobs that can pay up to $27 per hour from Las Vegas and Phoenix also proved to be ineffective.

Those frustrating experiences forced Hansen to look for other approaches.

“We realize we cannot sustain, never mind grow our business without cultivating our own qualified workforce,” Hansen said.

While on a tour of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating Station near San Louis Obispo, Calif., Hansen experienced firsthand how an on-site training center could meet his needs for skilled workers.

The tour later led to a partnership between Laron and Mohave Community College. If everything goes as planned, the first group of novice machinists and millwrights will be enrolled in an apprenticeship program through MCC by fall 2006.

The apprentices will accept credits from MCC while they train at the Laron’s factory.

“We realize not everyone is prepared to spend years and years in school, so we plan to develop the machinist and millwright program in such a way that participants will get practical experience alongside their classroom instruction; getting skills they can immediately use on the job,” said Holly Tucker, assistant vice president of instruction and extended studies at MCC.

But at the same time, the machinist and millwright apprenticeship program will eventually lead to an associate of applied science degree at MCC, which can then be transferred to a university for matriculation into a bachelor’s program.

“We partnered with the college because we feel the program will be a great deal more attractive to applicants if it leads to a degree,” said Hansen. “If we invest time and money putting people through the apprenticeship program, we ultimately hope they will grow with the company and move into management positions down the road.”

The apprenticeship program will progress in stages. The first step is to outline the contact and on-the-job training hours to allow for application to the state for certification of the program. MCC and Laron are looking at apprenticeship models used by other schools and companies, and will then customize the curriculum to meet Laron’s specific needs.

After the application for certification has been completed, Laron representatives will meet regularly with MCC staff to outline the on-site training center at Laron’s facility, located in the airport Industrial Park. Preparation of instructors will be another priority, and Laron has identified George Williams, a seasoned Laron employee, as lead instructor.

Laron manufactures mining equipment such as rock crushers.

To maintain a steady flow of apprenticeship applicants, the apprenticeship team is also working on a plan that will eventually make the program part of the statewide tech prep curriculum at Kingman High School.

An advocate of the Kingman High Robotics Club for years, Mike Ford, Kingman campus dean of MCC, said such a move would offer high school students opportunities to connect their personal interests with immediate employment.

Apprentice pay has not been determined but might be in the $10-$11 an hour range.