Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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USA - 2008

Public, Private Collaboration Creates Unique Apprenticeship Program


An 18-month apprenticeship program designed exclusively for entry-level positions is helping Alcoa’s Mt. Holly smelter in South Carolina (USA) find and develop qualified talent to prepare for a wave of potential retirements starting in 2010.

Opened in 1980, the Mt. Holly smelter will have more than 40% of its hourly workforce and an even higher percentage of first-line supervisors and craftspeople eligible to retire in 2010 under Alcoa’s 30-year service program. This challenge, combined with a decline in local qualified talent, led the smelter to explore developing an apprenticeship program for entry-level operators to complement existing programs for mechanics and electricians.

A collaborative partnership with the state government, nearby Trident Technical College, and other companies in the area resulted in the creation of the apprenticeship program to benefit not only the participating companies but the community as well. The state provides tax credits and other funds to offset most of the cost for the apprentices, who work 40 hours a week at a participating company and attend eight hours of weekly classes at Trident Technical College. The classes, which focus on problem solving, include statistical process control, lean manufacturing, and health and safety.

“I’m from a town in Indiana that took a big hit with factories closing up, and there was not a whole lot of opportunity in the area,” said Brad Krebs, a production technologist apprentice at Alcoa’s Mt. Holly facility who previously worked at a magnesium refinery. “Truck driving was probably one of my top options, and not a very good one at that. Through the apprenticeship program, I hope to gain skills and knowledge for my everyday job while continuing my education.”

In June 2008, Mt. Holly selected its first 30 apprentices—equal to the number of people projected to retire in 2010 and representing a variety of ages. Every apprentice is assigned a mentor, attends orientation and job training for his or her respective department, and is assessed on a monthly basis. After 18 months, participants completing the academic and hands-on training receive an apprenticeship certificate from the United States Department of Labor. They can then bid on any job in the smelter.

“This is a good opportunity to start my life right out of high school,” said William Lansing, a production technologist apprentice who joined the program at Mt. Holly upon graduation. “It’s a high-paying job with good benefits. I hope to have a successful career where I always have another goal to obtain and another job I can advance to.”