GNO, Inc. Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program Continues


Today, through its signature GNOu Program, Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) announced the open recruitment of the second cohort of the Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program. The program is an innovative apprenticeship including Elmers Chocolate, Laitram, and Zatarain’s, Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College. The Mechatronics Training Program was first announced April 2019. Applications for the second cohort are due by May 15, 2020.

Michael Hecht, GNO, Inc’s President and CEOsaid, “The Mechatronics Apprenticeship program is a major accomplishment for the entire region, and we are so proud to double down by announcing the start of our second cohort. Through the course of the first cohort, we saw the development of an unprecedented partnership between multiple companies and multiple schools, at the same time, to focus on a single workforce need. As we look at putting our region back to work, we must continue to strengthen industry-higher ed partnerships which will yield a more economically resilient workforce.”

GNO, Inc. sees it as a priority to foster collaborative industry and higher education partnerships. GNO, Inc. created its GNOu program as a catalyst for companies to partner with post-secondary schools to create custom-designed training programs as means to recruit employees. This generates a triple-win: the company gets specifically-trained workers, the school gets a market-relevant curriculum, and, the overall labor market benefits from a better trained workforce. The Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program is an initiative of GNOu.

The inaugural Mechatronics cohort began Fall 2019, resulting in 8 apprentices currently employed at Elmers, Zatarain’s and Laitram during their two-year commitment.

Philip Blue, Zatarain’s Mechatronics Apprentice said, “I feel blessed to have been chosen for the program, and NTCC, Nunez, and Delgado have been the perfect setting to begin my transition into a new career. The schools have provided my classmates and I with some state-of-the-art labs where we’re doing hands on learning with trainers made by the same industry leaders that manufacture the equipment that I use while working at the plant. I’m very lucky to have such knowledgeable and supportive professors to guide me through this experience, always seeming to be available to work closer with me to make sure I understand and can apply what I’m learning. I also have great classmates from diverse backgrounds, and the only thing better than getting to know them personally is the way we challenge and inspire each other to do our best each day.”

In 2017, Greater New Orleans, Inc. engaged companies in the advanced manufacturing industry to determine workforce needs that could be solved by specialized training programs. From these conversations emerged a talent gap surrounding the increasing modernization of regional companies, specifically at Elmer Chocolate, Laitram, and Zatarain’s. As manufacturing technology evolves, the skills needed to use and maintain equipment changes as well, creating the need for customized training programs.

New specialization requirements include mechatronics, an emerging, interdisciplinary branch of engineering that combines skills and knowledge in electrical and mechanical systems, electronics, robotics and control systems. Mechatronic workers are employed in many industrial environments, including energy, plastics, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace.

“Today’s high-tech manufacturing environment has opened up significant opportunities for people in Louisiana, especially our younger generations. While some predicted new advanced technologies and automation would eliminate jobs, we have found the reverse – more jobs are being created. The challenge today is not finding a job, it is having the skill set required to be successful in that job. This partnership between business and higher education will provide the key to many people looking for an exciting and fulfilling career,” said Robert Nelson, CEO at Elmer Chocolate

After bringing this matter to our region’s higher education institutions, it became apparent that three schools – Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College each possessed unique aspects of training that could be combined to create a curriculum and program that would generate trained workers that meet the needs of the program’s employers.

William S. Wainwright, Chancellor of Northshore Technical Community College said, “Louisiana’s community and technical colleges possess innovative advanced technologies supportive of sector driven workforce training initiatives in progressive markets. Northshore Technical Community College is pleased to continue to collaborate with training partners and employers in building pathways to prosperity for our citizens. The signature GNOu Mechatronics program is an example of successful collaboration in industry led workforce training and education.”

The Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program’s curriculum is designed to enhance and prepare each apprentice to be fully qualified in multiple aspects of advanced manufacturing technology. The two-year commitment will provide both technical classroom instruction and on-the-job training using an earn-while-you-learn model with training costs covered completely by the employer.

Once assigned to an employer, apprentices will earn a paycheck while learning on-the-job. Apprentices will alternate between eight weeks of classroom work and eight weeks at their chosen company for the duration of the program. Participants in the program will gain experience in a wide range of core competencies including motor controls, basic machining (mill, lathe, drilling, tapping, etc.), blueprint reading, functions of electrical and electronic systems, plus much more.

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