COD’s Project Hire-Ed Apprenticeship Program Highlights the Power of Workforce Development

By: Angela Mennecke

Aneesa Muthana, CEO and Owner of Pioneer Service

In celebration of the U.S. Department of Labor’s sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week Nov. 9 to 14, College of DuPage highlights Project Hire-Ed, its robust apprentice program designed to boost economic mobility and close the skills gap in DuPage County.

Since 2019, COD has partnered with employers to offer students apprenticeship opportunities in Manufacturing Machining, Manufacturing CNC Operator, Facility Maintenance, Industrial Maintenance, HVACR Service, Welding and Electro-Mechanical Mechatronics. Starting in 2020, Project Hire-Ed added apprenticeship offerings in health care for Medical Billing and Coding and is currently developing apprenticeships in Computer and Information Technology, Computer and Information Science, and Cybersecurity. 

“Our apprenticeship program graduates are equipped to fill knowledge and skills gaps within the companies where they already work,” Project Hire-Ed Manager Danielle Kuglin Seago said. “They create a pipeline of talent for employers.”

With a focus on recruiting underrepresented minorities and women to the manufacturing field, Project Hire-Ed recently partnered with Addison’s Pioneer Service, Inc., a Certified Women-Owned contract manufacturer looking to hire new talent.

Pioneer Service, Inc. President and CEO Aneesa Muthana, pictured above, said that the future of manufacturing hinges on outreach to tomorrow’s professionals while dissolving the old adversarial mindsets of women versus men and millennials versus boomers. Through Pioneer’s partnership with COD, Muthana is hoping she can continue to diversify her workforce.

“Project Hire-Ed is a program that allows ambitious and highly motivated students to break into a trade industry of their choice with almost zero experience needed,” she said. “Before our partnership with COD, we never had experience with the apprenticeship process. We have now successfully hired two talented workers through COD’s program to support our growing workforce.”

Pioneer Service is also the first Project-Hire Ed employer to utilize workNet DuPage Incumbent Worker Training Program funds. The program provides up to $25,000 of reimbursement funds to eligible businesses for specific training costs accrued during the course of training, including classroom instruction plus materials for apprentices to obtain credentials.

“Strategic partnerships among businesses, government agencies and educational institutions are key to developing a highly-skilled DuPage County workforce – the core of workNet DuPage’s mission,” said workNet DuPage Job Developer Jessica Barkwill. “We proudly support Project Hire-Ed and look forward to assisting more businesses in DuPage County through this innovative model.” 

For students, Project Hire-Ed provides affordable paths to secure high-paying jobs and careers without the typical student debt associated with college.

new study released by Opportunity America and the Brookings Institution found that graduates of employer-led, earn-and-learn apprenticeships earned salaries up to 63 to 86 percent more than other career and technical graduates from the same community college.

“Students in Project Hire-Ed receive a salary with incremental wage increases and benefits from the onset, and their education is free, as it is paid for by the employer,” said Kuglin Seago.

Hamid Benfakir, Pioneer Service CNC machinist apprentice, said that Project Hire-Ed has enabled him to work at a company where he sees himself as a long-term employee with a steady salary.

“Being a student in this program has allowed me to incorporate the knowledge acquired in the classroom as well as the technical skills learned on the job into building a foundation for a career in the CNC manufacturing field,” he said. “Both Pioneer and COD work with me to ensure that I have the tools that I need for success and the resources needed to advance in both my education and my skills in the field.”

Employers can learn more about apprenticeships as a work-based learning model at the virtual Employer Forum on Apprenticeships hosted by Project Hire-Ed and workNet DuPage at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Registration is required.

Students can learn more about program eligibility, certificate offering and coursework during a virtual information session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7. Registration is required. 

For questions, email project-hire-ed@cod.edu or call (630) 942-2953.