As need for skilled workers grows, Kinsley Construction builds up apprentice program 

The company formed its own program 18 years ago in response to the declining market for skilled laborers. Since then, Kinsley has empowered 114 apprentices and even started a pre-apprenticeship program.

Story paid for by: Kinsley Construction
Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Kinsley Construction's apprentice program was started 18 years ago and continues to be a valuable resource for both the company and job-seekers (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

About 20 years ago, Jose Garcia lost two younger brothers and a friend in a car crash. The accident took its toll on much of his life, leaving him depressed and struggling to keep various restaurant jobs. 

Jose needed a fresh start. A friend suggested leaving the restaurant industry and working for Kinsley Construction.  

He didn’t know anything about construction and barely knew how to use a tape measure.  

“I had no idea who Kinsley even was,” Garcia remembers.  

Still, he applied and started work in Kinsley’s concrete department in January 2000. 

Eight months later, Kinsley debuted its first apprenticeship program, designed to provide on-the-job training and coursework in various trade careers. A co-worker encouraged him to enroll, and it became a career move that changed his life. 

Jose Garcia was one of the first graduating class members of Kinsley’s apprentice program, which the company formed in response to the declining market for skilled laborers around the turn of the century. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Long-term decisions 

At the time, Kinsley paid apprentices just over $8 an hour. For Jose, the program meant taking a pay cut.  

He and his wife, Donna, were expecting their first baby, which made the decision difficult. 

“Losing $3 an hour in pay was a lot,” he says. “But I looked in the long term what could happen after graduation. I made the decision to go through the whole program.”   

You’re not just standing back. We want them to join in and be a vital part of the learning.

quotecircle
Deb Rohrbaugh Associate Director of Kinsley’s apprenticeship programs.

Shortly after graduation four years later, Jose was earning upwards of $20 an hour. Today, he works as a safety professional for the company. Of the six graduates that year, four still work for Kinsley. Most, like Jose, have continued to move up the ranks within the company.

“They gave me a chance,” Jose said. “I couldn’t tell you how many opportunities they gave me.”  

Response to workplace shortages 

Jose was one of the first graduating class members of Kinsley’s apprentice program, which the company formed in response to the declining market for skilled laborers around the turn of the century. 

That skilled workforce shortage continues today, both locally and nationwide.  

The expected need for construction workers will grow by an average of 12 percent by 2024, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. 

Since its inception, though, Kinsley’s program has graduated 114 apprentices, with more than 75 percent staying with the company.

(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Apprentices in Kinsley's program are like every other employee; they come in during regular hours and receive regular pay. (Photos by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

‘A vital part of learning’ 

Apprentices in Kinsley’s program can select one of three different focuses: a four-year focus in carpentry; a four-year focus in highway and bridge; or a three-year focus in iron working.  

“It’s a program where the sky is the limit,” says Deb Rohrbaugh, associate director of Kinsley’s apprenticeship programs.  

Apprentices are like every other employee; they come in during regular hours and receive regular pay. 

It’s not just classwork, either. Kinsley apprentices are sent to construction sites throughout Central Pa. and work on actual projects.  

“You’re not just standing back,” Deb says. “We want them to join in and be a vital part of the learning.”

Since its inception, Kinsley’s program has graduated 114 apprentices, with more than 75 percent staying with the company. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Building York 

The apprentices also play a vital part in building York.  

Jose worked on the Smalls Athletic Field renovations during his time as an apprentice and was responsible for running 50 to 60 percent of the project, all under the guidance of a mentor.  

“We would come in, he would tell me the goal for the day and let me run the project,” he says. “He was behind me, making sure I did everything right. If I had any questions, we’d sit down and discuss it.”  

Those mentors add a level of legitimacy to the program, Jose says.  

Years after he graduated, he’s continued to try to give back to the program, playing off his role as a safety professional with the company and teaching the students more about safety both on site and in the classroom.

Jose Garcia says the decision to enroll in Kinsley’s apprentice program changed his life. “They gave me a chance,” he says. “I couldn’t tell you how many opportunities they gave me.” (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Not just for adults 

While the apprentice program is in its 18th year, a new program started in 2017.  

Last school year, Kinsley partnered with York County Alliance for Learning to offer a pre-apprentice program to high school seniors around York County. Much like the apprenticeship program, the students had plenty of hands on-training. They learned to use certain tools, read blueprints and, at the end of the year, built an 8-foot by 6-foot house.  

Of the 13 seniors, eight were hired to work for Kinsley, one was hired at a sister company, one went to college on a football scholarship and another entered the military.  

This year, 22 seniors are now part of the program. 

“It was so successful, not just because there were people that applied here but who were interested in the trades,” Deb says. “These are people that graduate from the program, then buy a house and fix it up. They contribute to our communities in so many ways. I’m proud of the people they become.”  

— BY THE NUMBERS —

114

The number of apprentices Kinsley has graduated

75%

The average percentage of apprentices who stay with the company following graduation.

16

The number of apprentices set to graduate this fall.

$13

The average amount per hour an apprentice makes while working in the program.

$22

The average amount per hour an apprentice makes after graduation.

How to apply 

Learn more about Kinsley’s apprentice and pre-apprentice programs by contacting Deb Rohrbaugh at drohrbaugh@kinsleyconstruction.com. 

Apprenticeship applicants must: 

  • Be 18 years old or older 
  • Have a valid high school diploma or GED 
  • Have a valid driver’s license 
  • Have reliable transportation 
  • Pass a physical and a drug screening.  

Pre-apprenticeship applicants can apply in their junior year through their high school.

Story paid for by Kinsley Construction

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