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Donco 3 pours path to success

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In a world full of running water, reliable electricity, and paved streets most people are not uneducated that modern day amenities are possible because of people who have studied the trade. Most people who make sure our power is on and our pipes have water have studied their trade for years; a lot of times completing a trade program through a technical school or learning on the job as an apprentice. 

In a world made of concrete-sidewalks, driveways, roads and homes the concrete industry continues to thrive however, it is running out of qualified workers. “Over the past several years, we have noticed that there is a decline in the concrete work force and we saw that there was a need but there is no apprenticeship program that teachers what we do,” explained Aaron York co-owner of Donco 3 and General Superintendent, and one of the masterminds behind the new Concrete Worker Apprenticeship Program (CWAP) that starts in the fall semester (August 2022) through OTC. 

“We did an interview with Springfield Business Journal and I mentioned it, that it was a real problem-the workforce and not having any skilled workers. Bill Texter (of Advanced Concrete) contacted me and said ‘hey I’ve been thinking about that too’ and we just started collaborating,” shared York. “We worked together to come up with an apprenticeship program.”

Taking a risk and working with their biggest competitor, Donco 3 partnered with Advanced Concrete Technologies, the Department of Labor (DOL), National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Ozarks Technical Community college to put together a certified apprenticeship program for the concrete industry.

From day one, students who choose to participate in the CWAP are employed by the concrete company they sign up under. “They are an employee of Donco 3 (or Advanced Concrete Technologies) and we recruit them for the program-it’s a three year program. They go to school on Fridays. It’s a paid apprenticeship, so they get paid to sit in the classroom on Fridays from 7:00am-noon. Then the rest of the week is on the job training Monday-Thursday,” explained Rachel York owner of Donco 3. “They enroll at OTC-they are a student at OTC and also an employee at Donco 3,” added Aaron. At the end of the three years students graduate with a certificate from the DOL and NCCER. 

“There is a progressive pay scale that goes with the three year program. So they start at $17 an hour and then a dollar an hour every year until they progress out, then at that point they are a Journeyman Concrete worker…by that point they should be able to run a total station, blue print reading, estimation and more,” shared Aaron. “The goal is to develop leadership,” added Rachel. Essentially, by the time someone completes the program, they will have a certificate of completion, three years experience, and a job. 

“Our goal was to have 10 total (students enrolled). Five from us and five from advanced and we each have four,” shared Rachel. “8-10 was kind of the minimum that OTC wanted to do,” added Aaron. “Next year these students will be second year students and there will be five more spaces that open up,” added Rachel. 

At this time there is only space for five students per company each semester. “The grand idea is that more contractors will come on board and enroll and employee more kids,” shared Aaron. Both Rachel and Aaron hope that over the next several years there will be multiple contractors on board for students to be placed with, opening the program up from 10 to 20 or more. 

Being parents themselves, the York’s know the stress of wanting to see your children become successful members of society and the dreams of seeing your children get a college education. “Parents want their kids to go to college…not all kids are cut out for that…but this is a way for the kids to present to their parents that ‘I am going to go to college and (can) be a success’,” Rachel explained. 

The best part of the program: Donco 3 is paying for the students education. “I’m a second generation concrete worker. My dad had a construction business and I went straight from high school and went right into the work force…I’ve been doing it my whole life,” shared Aaron.  

“For me it’s like, how do we help the industry? I look around and I’m like what’s going to happen in ten years? Who replaces me? Who replaces all the guys that work for me,” reflected Aaron on his reasons for working so hard on the apprenticeship program and covering the costs for the students. “For us it’s kinda like leaving a legacy and trying to help our industry…It’s giving back to the industry that has given so much to us.” 

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