BY PENNSYLVANIA NEWS TODAY
When Bill Carling, owner of Lansdale’s TRI-KRIS Company Inc., considered a succession plan, he naturally thought of his son, Billy. While Bill was far from retirement—having taken over the precision machining company in 2006—he knew preserving the business’ legacy of providing quality components to serve industries locally and nationally required preparation. Having followed in his father’s footprints as TRI-KRIS owner, Bill was also invested in Billy being the third generation of Carlings in the business.
Billy, a resident of Pennsburg, possessed the same vision and, like his father, realized it wasn’t as simple as taking over when the time came. Billy needed to follow a path with each step, allowing him to build then refine his skills as a tradesman before he could then fully immerse himself in the business and evolve into roles of manager, supervisor and, one day, owner.
Bill looked to find a resource to provide the solid foundation that would transition Billy from “having a job” at the company, to launching his career path. Bill turned to JEVS Human Services—one of the largest social service agencies in the region offering skills training and career enhancement opportunities—attracted by the nonprofit’s Tri-State Apprenticeship Program (JTAP). JEVS mission in the program is to fuel local economies by empowering businesses with a strong pipeline of workers trained to excel in the modern-day environment. Together, Bill and JEVS developed a turnkey apprentice program that was customized for the company, and for Billy, providing a roadmap for him to achieve a supervisory role within a few years. Today, Billy successfully fills supervisory responsibilities—which includes being a mentor for a coworker bettering his career through JTAP.
“Unfortunately, many people still think of apprenticeship as the centuries-old concept of ‘preparing a person for some type of skilled job,’ like printing or metalwork,” said Stephanie Cocchi, EdD, program manager and chief apprentice adviser for JTAP. “But apprentice
Edison Freire, Director Gateway Initiatives at JEVS thinks this program will continue to grow and flourish. “JEVS helps meet business and industry demand for skilled, aspiring trade professionals who can ultimately help grow the business. We train individuals and open doors for them to find job placement and start fulfilling careers offering extensive growth potential,” continued Freire. “Lastly, by matching up these two groups, we contribute to a thriving business community and economy.”
Through the JTAP initiative, JEVS forms true partnerships with the business community and the pool of skilled tradespeople who can meet their needs. The program places equal focus and value on introducing new workers for hire and supporting a company to advance career-minded individuals from within. There are advantages to both approaches, which the JEVS team helps every business assess before determining which one is most appropriate for their needs.
“Finding skilled talent is a huge problem, and we need to dispel the myths about manufacturing,” said Bill Carling. “Apprenticeship programs had faded over time, so it’s great to see JEVS filling the gap. It’s amazing how much Billy and Antonio picked up in two years, plus they are more engaged with their work, want more responsibility—there’s a huge difference.”
Nationwide, apprenticeships peaked in 2019, reaching nearly 633,500 active and 252,270 new apprentices. However, in 2020 the number of new apprentices dropped by more than 30,000. Realizing it was essential to overcoming constraints of the pandemic, JEVS adapted JTAP to include online classes for technical instruction, allowing apprentices to continue their work from anywhere at their own pace.
Now in its fifth year, JTAP is powered by partnerships with the National Tooling and Machine Association and Tooling U-SME, allowing JEVS to support business and provide not just “workers” but high-growth potential career individuals as new hires and from within.
“We’re proud of the way our program has helped increase appreciation for the unique opportunities to be found in a diverse manufacturing workforce,” said Cocchi. “Men, women, people of different cultures and ages—they all bring distinct approaches and perspectives that make for a stronger operation.”
Lastly, JEVS harnesses the advantages of leveraging past apprentices to become mentors for new enrollees. As Billy and his apprentice at TRI-KRIS, Antonio, have discovered, there is unparalleled value in mentorship coming from a peer who started and successfully followed a similar path and who shares aspirations with the apprentice.
“I absolutely recommend the program. There’s so much knowledge to gain, including getting better at the trade you’re pursuing,” said Billy. “I also learned how to teach others and what to look for as a manager, which I can now use to help Antonio succeed and be the best he can be.”
“TRI-KRIS is not just a job, this is part of my life and where I want to be,” said Antonio, who has been working in the trade for several years but wanted to take on a more substantial role. “Seeing how Billy handles situations and troubleshoots inspired me. The JEVS program was the step to ensure my future. I’m learning so much and grow every day. I’m becoming a better person inside and outside of work.”
TRI-KRIS sees Billy now paying it forward to Antonio in a mentor-apprentice relationship, bringing things full circle. However, the company also intends on perpetuating the cycle for years to come.
“Apprenticeships are a very good thing. While other countries use them extensively, interest in America faded over time and it’s great that we’re getting back into them. Our apprentices are not just punching he clock and going home. You can see the difference as they are exposed to new ideas, earn more money at each step and it’s an opportunity I present to all of my employees,” said Bill.
November 15-21 is National Apprenticeship Week. JEVS encourages Montgomery businesses to consider working together to offer local apprenticeship opportunities. To learn more about the JEVS Tri-State Apprenticeship Program, go to JevsHumanServices.org/apprenticeship-manufacturing.