Teel Plastics Apprentice Graduates, Becomes Journey Worker

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Sam Stolte at his apprenticeship graduation party at Teel

Teel is pleased to congratulate Sam Stolte, Operator Technician II, upon his graduation from a certified Wisconsin state apprenticeship program in Teel’s Maintenance department. Starting as a production employee, Sam demonstrated an aptitude for technical work early on. Operations Manager Jason Kent, one of Sam’s mentors, described his entrance into the program: “Sam was a strong production employee with identified technical skills. Sam quickly became an operator technician and always wanted more responsibility at Teel. It was determined that Sam and Teel would benefit from the state apprenticeship program. Teel approached Sam with the program and in true Sam fashion he jumped at the opportunity.”

Maintenance Manager Dustin Steinhorst has been impressed with Sam since he transitioned to his department. “Because of his apprenticeship, he was able to hit the ground running in the Maintenance department and quickly became a high-performing member. It was because of his dedication to his apprenticeship, and Teel’s dedication to Sam, that he was able to take this leap from production to maintenance. Sam is a driven individual, routinely completing more than his assigned workload,” said Steinhorst.

Sam’s experience is another example of Teel’s approach to cultivating a skilled workforce from within, using programs like the Wisconsin state apprenticeship program to help develop the abilities of employees who show promise in a particular area. When someone does show promise, said Training Specialist DeeAnna Deane, “We really want to grow that person’s skills.”

Sam and Maintenance Manager Dustin Steinhorst with Sam's certificate of apprenticeship completion

Actively investing in the skills of employees has been mutually beneficial to students like Sam and to Teel. For Teel, programs like the Wisconsin apprenticeship program are an inexpensive way to gear an employee's training toward Teel’s particular needs. Given the limited number of technical workers and the broad array of industries in our modern economy, finding workers with skills and experience in precisely the work Teel does can be challenging. Apprenticeship programs are one way to circumvent this challenge, and allow Teel to customize a worker's training to its operations. “We’re just growing our own workforce,” said Deane, and enrolling employees in apprenticeship programs that help them become journey workers “is a great way to do that.” In addition, those whom Teel enrolls in the program tend to remain with the company longer. “I think they see that the company is willing to invest in them,” said Deane. “They see what a good thing it is for them.”

Traditional education options require that students either complete their training outside of working hours or take time off. With certified apprenticeship programs, not only is a student required to complete a large portion of their training on the job with pay, but the employer is also required to pay the student's normal wage for the time they spend in the classroom. Getting paid to learn a skilled, marketable trade is of course an enormous benefit for those so inclined.

Teel wants to be an employer of choice for those interested in technical work, and is therefore proactive in helping those who, like Sam, show promise and are willing to seek further training. Teel's goal is not to pigeonhole its talented employees, but to help them develop their skills for mutual benefit – something that Teel’s commitment to Sam and Sam's hard work and dedication in graduating exemplifies.