20160226_165855By Mike Rogers, Industrial Maintenance Instructor at Career Academy of Siloam Springs In 2015, the Siloam Springs High School in Arkansas was converted to a charter school known as the Career Academy of Siloam Springs or CASS. While this is not a one size fits all solution for every high school, it was very much needed for Northwest Arkansas, which is known to many as the retail, transportation and poultry processing hub of the U.S. With support from the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Council Economic Development, local companies stepped up to fund much of the new 10,000-square-foot facility. At CASS, juniors and seniors enroll in a half-day program to complete all four years of accelerated course instruction for their NCCER Industrial Maintenance Mechanic apprenticeship. A lot of eyebrows are raised when the word apprenticeship is used. Some people mistakenly think of an internship or a program confined and limited to only a couple of fields. Others conclude that it refers solely to a local union. In actuality, there are hundreds of craft apprenticeships. Here in Northwest Arkansas, many people immediately limit apprenticeship to electrical and plumbing. Not to take away from those NCCER programs, but CASS can’t graduate 50 electricians and 50 plumbers each year. CASS can, however, graduate 50 industrial maintenance pre-apprentices from the following crafts: electrical, plumbing, machining, computer numeric control (CNC) operation, HVAC, building construction, programmable logistics control (PLC), electronic systems, materials handling, rigging, crane operation and industrial maintenance. Essentially, the concept is to cross train and familiarize apprentices with numerous opportunities that lead to successful and rewarding careers in Northwest Arkansas. 20160226_165656While insurance company regulations and the Department of Labor restrict employment of industrial and commercial workers under the age of 18, who is to say that training and work experience have to wait? CASS students clock in and out for class and utilize specialized equipment such as arc welders, manual machine tools, instrumentation, Haas CNC machines, PLC, electronics, measurement and calibration equipment, forklifts, scissor lifts, boom lifts, component identification and the MSC and Fastenal catalogs. CASS pre-apprentices can  receive up to  100 industry-recognized credentials, including NCCER Core, NCCER Industrial Maintenance Mechanic Levels 1-4, OSHA-10, HAZMAT, Fluke instrumentation safety, confined space, Lockout/Tagout, work ethics, soft-skill training, powder actuated tools, Personal Fall Arrest System and forklift upon graduation, just to name a few. The early success of CASS stems from its network of industry partners. The school’s NCCER training is sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Career Education, and the Arkansas Department of Labor even sends their chief inspectors to train students at CASS. In addition, Kennametal, Haas, Hugg & Hall, Norton, Lennox, Fastenal, Goodwill Industries, Starrett and other companies train CASS students in the same manner their own employees are trained. CASS students also tour local manufacturing companies and get a behind-the-scenes look at how products are made. CASS graduates can finalize their on-the-job training for two additional years through the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation, an NCCER Accredited Training Sponsor. In the evenings, local business and contractor partners send their employees to CASS for NCCER apprenticeship training from Arkansas Construction Education Foundation in Electrical and Industrial Maintenance Mechanic. Starting in Fall 2016, CASS will offer NCCER training in Plumbing, HVAC, Electronics Systems Technician and Instrumentation for craft professionals in the industry. The Career Academy of Siloam Springs adds value to employees who add value to the products that are manufactured in Northwest Arkansas, and NCCER is one of the main resources that make this possible. The rest are trade secrets...

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.