The age of the master craftsman has long given way to the era of automation and mechanization. But thanks to a training program at West Virginia University, a new generation of skilled trade workers is developing the expertise needed to begin a specialized career.

The WVU Apprenticeship Program combines classroom learning, hands-on training and mentoring to develop student-apprentices into skilled trade professionals with expertise in carpentry; plumbing; electrical; general trades; or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The pilot program, launched last year, was established to develop a team of qualified, skilled craft workers tailored to meet the specialized needs of the University environment.

The program will induct a second class of six students during a special ceremony in July. The apprentices and their areas of training include Michael Bacorn , of Morgantown, mechanical maintenance; Corey Blon , of Morgantown, general trades; Richard Brake , of Morgantown, general trades; Michael Mancino , of Fairmont, HVAC ; Joshua Stevens , of Morgantown, general trades; and David Williams , of Morgantown, HVAC .

This program provides a win-win for all involved,said Randy Hudak, assistant vice president of Facilities Management.The apprentices are able to develop highly sought-after professional skills, the mentors are able to pass on their knowledge and trades skills, and we are able to increase the number of certified workers for the benefit of the University community.

Trisha Gyurke, director of Employment Services, said,We are very excited to be launching our second class of apprentices. We have received national recognition on this outstanding program as many colleges and universities around the nation are looking at what we are doing as a way to attract and retain talent.

The student-apprentices become full-time, benefits-eligible employees of WVU during the four-year program. Upon completion, students are qualified to become certified skilled-trades professionals and continue their employment with the University.

Each year of the program requires the participants to complete 1,600 hours of hands-on work and 145 hours of technical education. The program fosters a team approach and pairs each apprentice with a qualified, skilled worker who will oversee his or her training and progress.

Our apprentices are assigned work with an experienced craft worker and develop technical knowledge and skills in a team environment.Gyurke said.We had 14 apprentices on board by July 1, and we hope the program will continue to grow, not only with Facilities Management, but in other career areas as well including food service and computer technology.

The Apprenticeship Program is a joint effort between the WVU Division of Human Resources and Facilities Management unit and represents the first such program at a higher education institution in the state.

For more information, visithttp://www.hr.wvu.edu/apprentice/.