Investing in Employees through Skilled Trade Career Pathways

Alan Farren

Manager, Manufacturing Training

Philip Morris USA

I'm the apprenticeship coordinator for PM USA and oversee our instrumentation electrician and maintenance fixer apprenticeship programs. The apprenticeship program is a very structured program registered through the state with four years of hands-on, on-the-job training along with four years of related instruction. The apprentices work at PM USA alongside senior instrument electricians or senior fixers to learn the skills they need to perform the job. After they’ve worked their shift, they attend classroom training at a local community college.

I'm very passionate about developing employees and this program shows a commitment to that. It's crucial that we offer an avenue for entry-level employees to progress to the next level. I believe that by investing in training and education, you create lifelong employees that are going to stay with you through retirement.

I also feel strongly that we need to support the skilled trades outside of the organization because it gives those interested in the skilled trades a pathway into our company. We do a lot in the community to support skilled trades, such as working with career and technical education centers in the region to help them to develop their programs and raise awareness of skilled trades and advanced manufacturing. We participate in events like Mission Tomorrow, where local 8th graders learn about different career paths offered by regional companies in an interactive way. We hosted a Dream It Do It Camp, where local middle school students and their parents experienced science, technology, engineering and math hands-on. Our company as a whole is changing, and in order for us to embrace that change, we need the new insights of the new generations to help us bridge that gap.

Taylor Henderson, Electrical Apprentice, Philip Morris USA

I'm in my first year of the instrumentation electrician apprenticeship program. I got interested in the skilled trades because most of my family does blue collar work and I saw my sister struggle after getting out of an expensive big four-year institution and knew that's not what I wanted to do. Luckily I went to a junior college on a soccer scholarship where they offered skilled trade classes.


I'm really proud to be in the apprenticeship program because PM USA is a great company to work for and because it's going to get me so much further in my field.


I'm really proud to be in the apprenticeship program because PM USA is a great company to work for and because it's going to get me so much further in my field. I learn something new every single day, that's what I love about it. It's a lot of responsibility; on my first day in the field, we just hopped right into it – I was running conduit and hanging lights, but it's fun. The people are also great. Whenever I need anything or have a question, I can ask the first person I see and they help me or find someone who can.

I'm so excited to wake up for work every day at 4:30 in the morning. I used to dread it, but now I wake up, hop up out of bed, ready to go to work and learn something new.

Partnering to Expand Advanced Manufacturing

Nationally there is increasing demand for skilled trade jobs but not enough workers trained for them. Our manufacturing plants are experiencing this skilled trade gap firsthand so during Manufacturing Month in October, we announced a $1.3 million investment in expanding electrical and mechanical maintenance programs at a local community college. These funds will cover the purchase of new equipment, the expansion and modernization of classroom space, and scholarships for high school dual degree programs, which allow students to gain critical technical skills. This partnership will help support Philip Morris USA's apprenticeship needs – skilled tradespeople like electrical technicians are highly sought-after in Virginia and nationally, including at PM USA, and this investment will increase the number and frequency of classes so more people can get the skills and credentials needed to fill these in-demand jobs.

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