Message 03.01.2018

Apprenticeships at Pilatus in Broomfield

Having gone out of fashion in the United States several decades ago, traditional apprenticeships are now on the rise, and Pilatus is leading the way! Three new apprentices started their training at Broomfield in August. Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd

In the latter half of the 20th century it had become an expectation in the United States that a college education was the only route to a good career. But with the cost of higher education skyrocketing, many American college graduates are saddled with large loans and no marketable skills. At the same time, employers are having difficulty filling positions that require technical skills not taught in colleges. This makes it an ideal time to reintroduce apprenticeship programmes in the United States.

Based on the Swiss model

The Swiss apprenticeship model is considered the “gold standard.” Swiss companies adhere to an apprenticeship format that is highly regarded around the world. It was only natural, then, that Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd should become one of the first companies to introduce a new apprenticeship programme in the United States.

In January 2015, a delegation of senior U.S. labor and commerce officials and Swiss business leaders met at the White House to discuss implementation of an apprenticeship model in America. Thomas Bosshard, CEO of Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd, was honoured to be in attendance representing Pilatus.

First steps in the USA

Later that year, the U.S. Department of Labor invested 175 million U.S. dollars to build on a programme that promotes a combination of on-the-job-training and classroom instruction. Congress also earmarked an additional 90 million U.S. dollars to modernise the American apprenticeship system.

In February 2016, a group of 50 delegates from Colorado and Washington, D.C. travelled to Switzerland to gain an insight into the apprenticeship programme used with such success here. The goal of the trip was to expose educators, government officials and industry leaders to the proven Swiss model. Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper, was part of the delegation that visited Stans to speak to Pilatus apprentices. On returning from Switzerland, Hickenlooper formed the Business Experiential Learning Commission to develop, evaluate and implement a solution for integrated work-based education and training to meet the needs of Colorado’s economy.

Two apprentice courses at Broomfield

Shortly after, Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd decided to create an apprenticeship model with many of the characteristics of the Swiss apprenticeship system. The dual-track model allows for both on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Following international evaluation, a decision was taken to offer apprenticeship courses in aircraft interiors and logistics at Pilatus. Apprentices will study at their respective high schools for half the week, then spend the other half in job training at Broomfield.

Apprentices will have their education funded by Pilatus, will receive wages for their on-the-job and classroom training time, and will be eligible to participate in the company health care benefit plan, which is rare in the United States. On completion of the two or three year programme, apprentices earn their Associates Degree at a local college and receive a Department of Labour Certificate in Upholstery or Logistics. By the end of the apprenticeship, the new skilled workers will be debt-free, with marketable job skills experience.

Strict selection criteria

After interviews, and prior to final selection, candidates were invited for a “trial week” to experience a typical working week at Pilatus. During this time they were exposed to the Swiss values of precision, craftsmanship and professionalism. They rotated through several departments, learning the expectations of the position they were hoping to secure. It was an opportunity for them to see if they were interested, and it allowed us to see what they were like in the workplace. The apprentices were given various tasks to learn, and by the end of the week they were pulling parts in the Warehouse and sewing pillows in the Interiors Department!

Three new apprentices

The top three candidates were offered apprenticeship positions. Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd is pleased to welcome Bryce Sutton as the Logistics Coordinator apprentice. He will be learning the skills and processes of supply chain management. Morgan Hendler and Lissy Culkin will be apprentice Aircraft Interior Specialists, learning to assemble, sew, fabricate, and install soft goods for aircraft interiors and will also learn aircraft wiring and harness building.

Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd takes great pride in spreading the awareness of this new apprentice programme, and looks forward to leading a resurgence in this method of training and educating the future employees in the United States.