IMG 3015 372x451 - Fueling the future: A look at the apprenticeship model

(RED OAK, Texas) – “It’s a pathway to a great career, not just a job,” Adam Barber, executive director of Workforce Development at Texas State Technical College, recently said. “It’s really a win-win for both the individual and the employer.”

Barber was referring to apprenticeship programs, a model for workforce development that he has seen work firsthand through TSTC’s partnership with Canada-based business jet manufacturer Bombardier in the Bombardier Aviation Apprenticeship Program. 

Bombardier trains apprentices almost quarterly in a lab on TSTC’s North Texas campus for 12 weeks, followed by an additional 12 weeks of training at the Bombardier facility in Red Oak. During the entirety of the training, apprentices are paid.

“The earn-and-learn approach, if you will, the apprenticeship model itself, combined with industry-specific structured training, make apprenticeships not only an effective model for workforce development, but also a little bit different compared to traditional models,” Barber said.

In Texas, there were 30,756 apprentices in 2023, including in nontechnical industries, according to According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December 2023 there were 14,542,800 employed workers in Texas, meaning that only 0.21% of the Texas workforce was part of an apprenticeship program. 

Jorge Gil, one of the trainers for the Bombardier apprenticeship program, said he believes that a part of why apprenticeships are not more common is due to the immediate needs of employers.

“(Employers) want people to help them now, instead of having delayed gratification,” Gil said. “That’s what this provides. It provides a stream of hopefully talented people for the future.”

To make an apprenticeship program successful, both Barber and Gil agreed that there needs to be strong support from the employer. Barber said he could understand a lot of employers being wary of moving forward with building such a program.

“It requires a significant time and financial commitment from employers, so there’s often a concern regarding return on investment,” he said.

Gil mentioned multiple areas in which he has seen Bombardier benefit from the choice to invest in the program, bridging skills gaps being one of the primary ones.

“I’ve been in this business for nearly 40 years now, and I’m seeing less and less people doing what we do,” he said. “And so, the talent pool has become smaller and smaller to draw from when we have openings at our facilities. (The apprenticeship program) has enabled us to have a pool of people to draw from.”

In addition to skills gaps, current employment trends in the technical industries have also created a space for apprenticeship programs to thrive.

“A lot of baby boomers are quitting the workforce because they’re retiring,” Gil said. “You don’t have the time to wait to hire people — you’ve got to have them now. And if you had a stream of people that were getting ready for the future, you can have a draw from that.”

Gil said that in addition to believing it to be an advantage for Bombardier, working with the apprenticeship program has been personally gratifying. 

“This apprenticeship program is probably the best thing I’ve been part of in my 36-year career,” he said. “We grow people, and that’s a lot of fun.”

Gil has seen apprentices that he helped grow move up the ladder of the company, showing some of the more long-term benefits of having the apprenticeship program. 

“Some of our apprentices are leading mechanics in our facilities after two years,” he said. “They’re outrunning people that have 15 years’ experience because they have solid foundations of how to perform the work.”

It is because of this that Gil said having an apprenticeship program is invaluable.

“It’s worth the wait for these kids,” he said. “These kids are in the apprenticeship program because they have the drive and motivation to work.”

According to, more employers are also beginning to see the benefits of these programs. In 2022 there were only 25,952 apprentices in Texas. That number has risen by over 5,000 in the past two years, with a total of 30,975 apprentices in 2024, according to the website.

For more information on TSTC, go to

tstc logo