Apprenticeship Program Draws on Stanford's Vision

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May 17, 2013

Stanford's Apprenticeship Program

Departments interested in learning more:

• Contact Kathy Mertens in Employee & Labor Relations, 650-723-4083, kmertens@stanford.edu.

• Visit the Apprenticeship Program's website


On-the-job training over a four-year period, being mentored by the best and brightest, an experience that prepares you for a long-term career opportunity. Sound like getting an undergraduate degree at Stanford? It's actually a newly established Apprenticeship Program for staff, a joint effort between Stanford and the SEIU Higher Education Workers (HEW) Local 2007.

The program's purpose to educate and mentor while performing needed work to support students, faculty and staff on the main campus echoes the words of Leland and Jane Stanford as stated in the Founding Grant of 1885, "to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life…" The Apprenticeship Program started in August 2012, with four apprentices selected in January 2013, and hopes to expand moving forward.

About the Program

Planning began in 2009, with a contract agreement between Stanford and the SEIU HEW Local 2007 to support an apprenticeship program. After University Human Resources' Employee & Labor Relations staff studied requirements, the decision was made to make the program state-certified to meet the State of California's strictly enforced guidelines for apprenticeships. Standards were developed and at that point in the planning, participation was solicited from Stanford's leaders in the areas of campus with employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Leaders in Lands, Building & Real Estate (LBRE) and Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) stepped up to sponsor the first four apprentices, funding the positions from their own budgets to support the program's establishment. The SEIU HEW Local 2007 also made a one-time financial contribution to implement the classroom training component of the program.

The selection process was rigorous and included aptitude testing. Over 250 applications were received for four apprentice openings. The positions were available to internal as well as external applicants. The four selected candidates know how competitive it was to secure a paid, benefits-eligible, full-time position in the new program. And while their jobs vary, the enthusiasm of the apprentices is singular; they collectively feel this is an incredible experience, and are learning about—and doing—work that will uniquely prepare them for a career like nothing else they've done.

Residential & Dining Enterprises: Student Housing Maintenance Department

Apprentice Steve Trinh and Maintenance Technician Lead  Manny Bautista in R&DE prepare to weld a pipeSteve Trinh is an apprentice working in R&DE's Student Housing area, after working for a car dealership for several years as an auto mechanic. While Steve has a bachelor's degree in Ethnic Studies, he prefers working with his hands and couldn't be happier to be in the program. "Everyone here is so accepting, and eager to show me things and always explain everything in detail. I didn't feel part of a team at the car dealership, but I definitely like it better working in a true team."

Manny Bautista, Steve's mentor and Maintenance Technician Lead, explained that their work ranges from responding to a call of a clogged drain in a dorm restroom to replacing a malfunctioning washer in a dorm laundry room to maintaining heating and air conditioning systems in the residences. His team works closely with each dorm's Facilities Manager, and also have frequent contact with students in their residences where Manny takes care to let the student who requested help know why there are two people responding to their call. He feels students can relate to having an apprentice work on their problem; they know what it's like to be absorbing a lot of new information!

Mark McBirney, the Associate Director for Maintenance in R&DE who is overseeing the program in that unit, laid out a long-term goal by stating, "This program creates a talent pipeline for our organization, ensuring we are training the next generation of employees to take the reins when our highly skilled workers retire. Having apprentices has also been really motivating for our experienced staff, who are excited to be teaching others."

Steve draws upon his customer service experience in the interactions with students, listening closely to their explanation of the problem, and asking specific questions to assess the problem and determine next steps. His advice to anyone considering joining the Apprenticeship Program: "Be willing to learn; I have learned things I never dreamed of, including about architecture and building construction. I've definitely gained better critical thinking skills during my first few months when learning troubleshooting approaches, and am proud to have been chosen to be in the program."

Lands, Building and Real Estate: HVAC Department

LBRE Apprentice Benjamin Buenrostro in the HVAC shop starting  an  exhaust fan motor replacementThree apprentices are in LBRE, including one in the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) department. Benjamin Buenrostro worked in the US Marine Corps as a technician maintaining F18 fighter jets, then transitioned into administration to leave behind some of the life-and-death stress of maintaining F18s. After leaving the USMC, he was hired into an Administrative Associate position in LBRE in 2005. When Benjamin heard the new Apprenticeship Program was being developed a couple of years ago, he prepared by attending an 18-month HVAC training program through WyoTech in Fremont to gain understanding and familiarity with HVAC equipment and processes. He feels fortunate to have been selected for the program, and is excited to put his technical and mechanical skills to work to learn the HVAC trade at Stanford.

Benjamin feels well supported by his team and his two mentors/supervisors, Scott Hofflander and Marc Conway. Scott mentioned the support he got for his role in the program from his HR Manager, Russ Whiteford, from initially reviewing resumes to the interviewing and selection process and the monthly state-mandated status reports, and is happy to see the program come to fruition. "After years of planning, it's great to finally launch the program, and we're all experiencing a much better integration among the trades—HVAC, electrical, and plumbing—as a result." Similarly, Marc stated that the program has been great for existing team members, who are demonstrating high engagement with their work. "Journeyman HVAC technicians have years of experience and knowledge, and they have been very open and willing to work with our apprentice to help him learn; many were apprentices themselves at one point, too."

When asked what his biggest challenge has been in the Apprenticeship Program, Benjamin laughed. "It's that there just isn't enough time in a day," he said, "and juggling my job with my twice weekly, three-hour required evening classes, plus making time for my family has been tough. Still, I wouldn't change a thing about it!"

Lands, Building and Real Estate: High Voltage Department

Apprentices Chris Garcia and Don Ioane in LBRE’s High Voltage shop yardTwo apprentices, Chris Garcia and Don Ioane, work in LBRE's High Voltage area. Their tasks range from fixing one of the university's 3,400 street lights on the main campus to repairing an electrical transformer providing energy for several buildings to working with underground electrical cables. Don was attracted to the chance to learn on the job and have his education supported; he knew some staff in Event & Labor Services who recommended he apply. For Chris, he was working at the San Francisco Airport doing facilities maintenance, had completed the electrical program at WyoTech, and was looking for a new opportunity. Their supervisor is Carlos DeAnda, who said there was a practical reason for his shop to participate as three staff had retired and there were vacancies. Though he initially wasn't looking for apprentices and wanted experienced journeyman, he has come to see that having apprentices in his shop has been great for everyone. "This has given our shop a huge advantage, because the guys are invigorated and excited to teach and mentor Chris and Don; plus, it helps them think objectively so they can explain how to do key tasks to them."

Don admits he was just looking for a stable job when he applied to the program, but learning every step of working with high voltage electricity has taught him skills he can use throughout his life. "Before a job, we all sit down and plan out every aspect of the work, including what needs to happen, who will do what, what tools we need, and how the process will work. I've discovered I really like planning—figuring it all out ahead of time and then making sure it goes well is fun."

Chris recommends being an apprentice to anyone who's interested. In addition to the tasks he's assigned, he's learning how to use LBRE's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, a computer system that monitors and controls their high voltage electrical systems. "It's such a great environment, to know you are learning and even though you don't have all the experience the others have, you feel they've got your back, no matter what. I could really see myself having a long-term future at Stanford because this has been such a good experience."

Photo Gallery

View more photos of current participants in the Apprenticeship Program »


The Future of the Program

Because the Apprenticeship Program runs for four years, it won't be until 2017 that final outcomes from this initial group of four apprentices will be assessed. That the program exists at all reflects the tireless efforts and collaboration of leaders in the SEIU HEW Local 2007, leaders in University Human Resources and the Office of General Counsel, and the leaders of the two business units that employ the largest number of skilled union employees, LBRE and R&DE. Kathy Mertens, HR Programs & Compliance Analyst in Employee & Labor Relations, would love to see a new program starting each year to build up the number of apprentices. "It's a win-win for everyone," she states, "with highly motivated trainees willing to learn the entire operation and existing staff getting to teach and mentor. I think the university and the SEIU HEW Local 2007 have set a new model of working together that would make Leland and Jane Stanford proud."

Apprenticeship Program Standards

The state of California closely oversees all apprenticeship programs in the state, with general standards that include:

    • On-the-job training with a mentor/supervisor, with the apprentice's work being closely overseen, reviewed frequently, with almost constant feedback and coaching with the mentor, along with hands-on training.
    • Education to learn principles associated with the trade or field the apprentice is learning; Stanford is partnering with educational agencies for apprentices to attend training classes to fulfill the program's educational component.
    • Agreement with the SEIU HEW Local 2007 supporting the establishment of the program.
    • Creation of a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) to oversee all aspects of the program, working with Employee & Labor Relations staff to monitor the program. Progress reports must be made to the JATC and the State of California.


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