Manufacturing

U.S., Austrian officials agree to replicate apprenticeship program used at Egger's Triad plant

 

Shortly after announcing it would build a $700 million manufacturing plant near Lexington and eventually hire nearly 800 workers there, Austria-based Egger Wood Products collaborated with other manufacturers in Davidson and Davie counties to create a registered apprenticeship program to help feed the talent pipeline. 

Through Davidson County Community College, the Davidson-Davie Apprenticeship Consortium, modeled after Austrian-style registered apprenticeship programs.

In recognition of those efforts, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and Austria was signed at Egger’s Lexington plant to expand registered apprenticeships among Austrian companies and Austrian-invested companies in the U.S. to promote job creation in both countries. 

Austria invested a total of $17.2 billion in the U.S. in 2020, sustaining 33,500 jobs primarily in the areas of industrial equipment, software and IT services.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and the Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Margarete Schramböck were on hand to sign the MOU and take a tour of Egger’s first North American advanced manufacturing facility.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also signed the MOU between the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce and Austria’s Federal Ministries for Digital and Economic Affairs, Labor, Education, Science and Research.

“Registered apprenticeships are a proven model for workers and employers that create paths to good paying, middle class jobs,” Walsh said. “The partnership will help promote the establishment, growth and diversification of registered apprenticeship programs. Through these programs, we can increase foreign investment in the U.S. and expand opportunities for America’s workers.”

Egger has 30 apprentices enrolled through the Davidson-Davie Apprenticeship Consortium and is planning to enroll 12 more this year. Apprentices earn income throughout the four years of the program as they receive on-the-job training and attend classes at DCCC. Upon graduation, they are guaranteed a job at Egger and enter the workforce with four years of seniority.

Other participation companies in the consortium are BMK Group, Wolverine Proctor and Kurz Transfer Products, all of Lexington; Ingersoll Rand of Mocksville and Mohawk Industries of Thomasville. 

 “The signing of this memorandum of understanding reinforces the strong bilateral relationship between Austria and the United States and recognizes the added value of Austrian-style apprenticeships in the U.S.,” Schramböck said. “Apprenticeships benefit our economies and societies, ensure a talent pool of skilled workers and can positively influence a company’s innovation capabilities and productivity.”

The MOU will promote the exchange of ideas and best practices for expanding apprenticeship programs in both countries. The U.S. currently has similar MOUs with Germany and Switzerland to establish new apprenticeship programs, increase awareness of opportunities and create career pathways for registered apprentices.