Local Manufacturer Pays Students to Earn Degrees

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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Alex McConnell graduated from Central Community College in Hastings and started his career at BD this month as a toolmaker/machinist. And even better, he won’t have a mountain of college debt lingering over his head thanks to his new employer.

Alex is the first recipient of BD’s $16,000 two-year scholarship launched in 2017 as part of the Holdrege plant’s overall goal of helping local youth launch a great local career.

“Our whole goal with the program is to provide youth in the area with opportunities to find good work right here,” said Brian Deakin, BD’s human resources manager. “Great careers and great jobs are available right here. We would love to keep all of our kids home here.”

Alex said he is looking forward to a long career at BD. He joins his mom and several other relatives who already work at the plant.

“Holdrege is just home,” Alex said. “I feel comfortable here. And, BD is a great place to work.”

BD awarded the 2018 scholarship to Blade Wagener of Holdrege and the 2019 scholarship to Ty Urbom of Holdrege.

The scholarship is given to a student studying electronics programming, electro-mechanical technology, tool and die or molding processes. Any graduating senior of a Phelps County high school or any high school adjoining Phelps County is eligible to apply. The successful applicant must commit to working at least two years at BD following graduation.

In addition to the scholarships, BD launched a new mechanic apprenticeship program in early May.

The apprenticeship program will pay local students to earn a degree while at the same time give them on-the-job training in a variety of manufacturing areas at BD.

“The apprenticeship is a little different than the scholarship,” Deakin said. “Students actually work for us, and we send them to school. When they finish the program, they actually have a credential in mechanical technology.”

The three-year program is registered as an official apprenticeship through the Nebraska Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Labor.

During the three years, apprentices get paid to attend classes at Central Community College. BD also pays for the education and pays the student to work at BD and learn various aspects of manufacturing.

Deakin said the apprenticeship jobs are on the first shift, and the pay is competitive – around $18 an hour for someone just graduating from high school or a few years out.

“Our goal is to help students who live in this area to start their career and get going,” Deakin said. “It’s a great job. It puts someone in a great position to move forward.”

Deakin said manufacturing jobs are in high-demand across the state and country, and students with this training have abundant opportunities. And, BD’s scholarships and apprenticeship programs help them graduate with little to no college debt.

“A lot of folks don’t realize what these two-year degree technical jobs really are and how well they pay and the opportunities that exist,” Deakin said. “We’ve got those opportunities here, and I know those opportunities exist across the state.”

Deakin said the programs are targeted to students who have some mechanical aptitude and like to work with their hands and can learn and understand the technical aspects of modern automation.

The two Holdrege apprenticeships are currently advertised on the BD website at https://jobs.bd.com/job/holdrege/mechanic-apprentice-1st-shift/159/11825618

Deakin said he’s already received some applications, and he hopes to hire and start training the new apprentices by this fall.

In addition, Deakin said BD is working to establish an academic scholarship for a local student studying to earn a four-year degree in a manufacturing-related field. The goal is to have that scholarship available to 2020 graduates. That new scholarship, along with the existing $16,000 two-year scholarship, would be available through the Phelps County Community Foundation. Applications are typically due in mid-February.

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