Stober Drives opened its doors to the public on Thursday so the community could learn more about the company and the apprenticeship programs offered there.
Amy McCord, marketing manager for Stober, said the day was about showing the community the different career options available.
“We wanted to be able to show the community what a successful talent program could look like, and how much it benefits an organization, as well as giving students and the community a chance to learn about potential careers,” she said. “We want them to know there are many paths to success, whether it’s an apprenticeship, going to work right out of high school, going to college, there is a future for everybody. We just wanted to show them the options they could have.”
At 6 p.m., the break room of Stober Drives was so packed that people were standing in the hallway and outside the building in order to hear speakers and wait for tours to begin.
Peter Feil, general manager of Stober Drives, welcomed the crowd and discussed the importance of the Pathway to Success program.
“We’re calling this Pathway to Success,” he said. “We Americans tend to think that the path to success is to only go to college for four years, get a degree, get a job and live happily ever after. That’s great and it works, but it’s not for everyone.”
According to Feil, about 70 percent of Americans go straight from high school to college, but only about 33 percent of jobs require a four-year degree. He made a comparison to Germany, where only about 15 percent go to college, while about 50 percent complete an apprenticeship.
“What’s happening in our country is — there is a whole bunch of college debt accumulated and the average debt someone carries out of college is $30,000. The problem with that is that a lot of people who accumulate that debt may or may not find a job to pay it off.”
Feil said he knew a woman who had $200,000 in college debt from a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“There are alternatives to a college degree,” he said.
Feil said Stober began the apprenticeship program in 2005. Any job that Stober apprentices will work with the Maysville Community and Technical College through a curriculum. The apprentice will work at Stober while going to school. They will work 30 hours a week, go to school 10 hours a week and still get paid for 40 hours.
“So they are getting paid whether they are working or sitting in class,” he said. “We also pay books and tuition. The only requirement is that they have a “C” grade or they retake it at their own cost. In most cases, they finish the four years with an associate’s degree or credits toward their associate’s degree with no college debt. They also receive work experience.”
According to Feil, there are several opportunities to apprentice at Stober.
There are 12 apprentices at Stober currently. There are also pre-apprentices, which is for high school students, Feil said.
Stephanie Gastauer, who works with Stober, said she has been with the company for three years. Before that, she had 22 years in public education.
“About 10 years prior, I thought ‘we might not be doing a service to kids by telling them a four-year degree was the way to go,’” she said. “The state didn’t agree with that. So, an apprenticeship opportunity came up to work for a company who believes that is true. Success looks very different for different people. You must get skills, but that does not mean from a four-year university.”
Gastauer said the apprenticeship offers the chance to “learn and earn.”
“You’ll understand how what you’re learning will play out in the real world,” she said.
The crowd also heard from several employees at Stober, who have completed the apprenticeship program, including Stephanie Berry, Landon Garrison and Blake Lovins.
Berry said she has worked for Stober for 14 years. She began the apprenticeship program in customer service that is now inside sales.
“I feel like I hit the lottery when I found this job,” she said. “I was a married woman with two children who had a little bit of college. I read in the newspaper that an apprenticeship program would give me the opportunity to come start a career in a field I had dabbled in. I was just trying to find a seed, so I applied. They offered me the position. I will never turn down any education Stober would offer to me. It’s just the beginning with the program. I have worn many hats in Stober. I’ve traveled all over the United States for Stober. There is never a dull day of what you’re going to see at Stober.”
Garrison said he is one of the original apprentices.
“In 2004, I was a junior in high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I saw some students come in from vocational school bringing in their machine tool projects. It really caught my interest. My mom, being a college instructor, wanted me to take college prep classes. After much begging, she let me take machine tool. I fell in love with it. My teacher told me Stober was talking about starting the apprenticeship program. I applied for it and was accepted. It’s been fantastic. I was able to mentor under a seasoned machinist, so I learned on the job while also learning in the classroom. It was a great experience for me.”
Garrison said he also received his journeyman certificate and went on to a four-year program, where he received his engineering degree.
“It changed my life,” he said. “I was able to build a career with no college debt and start a family in this area.”
After the discussion, a tour of the company was held, followed by break-out sessions, where everyone was invited to learn more about the program and the company.
Grace Ellis, from Fleming County High School, was at Stober with her sister. Ellis said she was probably interested in the sales or customer service side.
“My brother-in-law works here and told us about the program,” she said. “So, we thought we’d come out and check it out. I like what I’ve heard so far. It’s interesting and I just have to figure out what I want to do.”