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Deere and Company's apprenticeship program gets a twist with new partnership with Iowa State University

Students who are a part of the apprenticeship are paid $13/hr, get school credit, and are put on the short list for jobs at Deere and Company if they choose to apply

EAST MOLINE, Ill. — The Quad Cities' biggest company is making a big investment in today's students.

Deere and Company's apprenticeship program is teaching not only the hands on lessons needed to get the job done, but communications skills that can be just as important for their future.

Most high school students spend summer vacation kicking back with their friends, but not Garrett Castens and Daniel Sumner. They are spending their summer getting hands on work experience through Deere and Company's apprenticeship program.

Credit: WQAD
Photo: Daniel Sumner seen working at a simulator

Daniel Sumner is a 17-year-old high school student at United Township and says he's "always been a hands on worker." College was never something that interested him, instead, "welding really appealed to me especially when something like this came up."

Credit: WQAD
Deere and Company's apprenticeship program at John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline is more than just a lesson in Welding.

But the apprenticeship program is more than just a lesson in welding. It's also a lesson in communication thanks to a new partnership with Iowa State University.

Emma Murray is a professor at Iowa State in the English Department. Her work focuses on communication. Murray has been working with the students to become better communicators in the workplace and beyond. "Communication skills are so important because the welders here that are part of the program have a lot of power in improving the facility." said Murray. "They can give feedback and make the workplace safer, more efficient and that leads to better pay for all employees". 

It was a welcomed addition to Deere and Company's three-year-old program, which started when Deere and Company recognized there was a shortage of skilled laborers in the metro Quad Cities.

Credit: WQAD
Photo: Apprentice Garrett Castens seen welding

"[We] partnered with out local high schools. It allows us to develop that continuing pipeline of skilled employees." said Barry Neal who works with the Deere Harvester Apprenticeship Program. Neal says it's also a way to help keep future generations in the Quad Cities rather than moving away. But recognizes even if students move away, they still need the skills to be productive citizens. "We're paying high schools students to come develop their skills.. we focus on welding but there are also development skills that we work on." Neal goes on to say, "We're trying to help develop folks in the Quad Cities' [area] high schools to be the best employees they can be whether they come work for John Deere or go somewhere else."

As an added bonus the students a part of the program are put on a short-list to be hired for work because they are "engrained in the culture at John Deere" said Neal.

The students create a presentation that they are able to present for Deere and Company employees, and to their peers at school to raise awareness for the program. 

Credit: WQAD
Iowa State University Professor, Emma Murray teaches communication skills to apprentices at Deere and Company's John Deere Harvester Works' East Moline campus.

Participants in the program are paid $13.00 an hour, get hands on training, learn communication skills, gain school credit for working, after they complete 2,000 hours worked. 

Garrett Castens, and apprentice and student at Alleman Catholic High School said, "I am hoping to take away a log of knowledge about the manufacturing profess that I can take with me anywhere the rest of my life." 

The Quad Cities chamber says it has more than 15 area businesses who offer apprenticeships. To learn more email Mike Oberhaus at the Quad Cities Chamber by clicking here.