Wood materials supplier EGGER Wood Products and Davidson County Community College are launching an apprenticeship program as efforts gear up to build a $700 million North American headquarters and production facility.

    EGGER, based in Austria, supplies materials for the furniture, construction and flooring industry. Phase one of its project entails the construction of a $300 million particle board manufacturing facility, which will create 400 jobs over the next six years. Construction is slated to begin in late 2018 with production beginning in 2020. Another 370 jobs are expected to be added over the following nine years.

    Throughout EGGER's manufacturing facilities across the globe and especially in Europe, apprenticeship pathways play a key role in filling jobs. The company expects apprentices to play the same role at its Lexington operations.

    The program designed through a partnership with DCCC will allow students the opportunity to earn an associate degree, learn a profession and get paid while in the classroom and working hands-on with EGGER.

    Here's what the program offers:

    • A paid, 4-year program in mechanical and electrical trades.
    • A paid degree, leaving students debt-free upon graduation.
    • Guaranteed full-time employment following graduation.
    • Full benefits package, which students will receive upon day one of entering the program.
    • A $2,000 signing bonus.

    Students won't have the opportunity to work in the factory until it's completed in 2020, but the company has already broken ground on a $15 million office space that will include an EGGER showroom and training facility. Once that project is completed in early to mid-2019, students will undergo hands-on education at the training facility. Until then, necessary hands-on training will be provided through DCCC.

    An interest meeting will be held at DCCC on May 15, where high school graduates will have the opportunity to learn more about the program. From those who apply, 10 students will be selected roughly six weeks later and will proceed with orientation.

    Karl Grasser, project manager for administration and finance of the Lexington project, told Triad Business Journal the apprenticeship program is not the only way DCCC students will have the opportunity to work with EGGER, as earning a degree from the college can also serve as a pathway toward an EGGER position.

    "Not everybody who works at EGGER goes through an apprenticeship program," Grasser said.

    And DCCC is working to further improve the opportunities for students to apprentice while attending school.

    Margaret Annuziata, DCCC vice president of academic programs and services, said a number of manufacturing companies in Davidson County and Davie County have expressed interest in committing to a consortium dedicated to working with with the college to fill workforce needs and to better establish pathways into the workforce.

    Many of the interested companies already have apprenticeship programs, Annuziata said, and will work to leverage those programs toward getting more students involved. Other interested companies do not have apprenticeship programs, but as part of the consortium will be able to benefit from a better established career pathway to create their own apprenticeship opportunities.