UNC Charlotte’s Facilities Management (FM) Department recently became the first in the UNC System to offer an apprenticeship program for trade careers. Through ApprenticeshipNC, Tierah “Tee” Coleman, a Charlotte native, and Kevin Gibbs, relocating from Louisiana, were hired as the inaugural class of electrical apprentices.
Apprentices have the unique opportunity to be hired as full-time UNC Charlotte employees and complete coursework at a local community college free-of-charge through ApprenticeshipNC.
They gain on-the-job experience working alongside electrician mentors, who were chosen by FM leadership. Under the direction of mentors Steve Tallent, David Elledge, Josh Hyatt and Carl LaChance, the apprentices assist in daily tasks and apply classroom learnings to real-life experiences.
“I’m already proud of Tee and Kevin,” said Krista Collins, program manager. “They are excited to have this opportunity. I know they have bright futures ahead of them.”
Upon successful completion of the program, Coleman and Gibbs will receive a certificate of completion, a journeyman’s card and an opportunity to continue their careers as FM electricians.
A national decline in workers entering the trades led to the creation of the apprenticeship program. According to Forbes, as the baby boomer generation begins to age into retirement, there will be a shortage of trades workers due to younger generations shifting their career focus to other areas.
Melanie Witherspoon, director of the FM Business Office, along with two team members, began to anticipate this possible gap in the trades more than six years ago.
“Our trade employees are instrumental to the success of Facilities Management and the entire University,” said Witherspoon. “As a team, we knew we needed to understand the potential effects of this national trend before it became a localized and critical issue on our campus.”
The idea of creating an apprenticeship program emerged after years of transition, focused investigation and discussions with local community colleges. With the support of Vice Chancellor Beth Hardin and Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, collaboration soon began among the FM Business Office, Facilities Operations, Human Resources and other campus partners to establish and register the program.
Based on FM’s projected need, the team decided to focus the first few years on electrical trades.
In upcoming years, the team hopes to expand this program by hiring additional apprentices and including other trades.
Photo: Kevin Gibbs and Tee Coleman, center, discuss new electrical equipment with their mentors and zone supervisors.