PITTSTON TWP. — Just about every college student knows people who worry about getting a job after graduation. They fret about finding a position in their field and wonder if they will be sufficiently prepared.
But four young men from Luzerne County Community College are virtually assured they’ll be welcomed into the workplace. In fact, they’re already in their ideal workplace, drawing paychecks from Greiner Packaging in Pittston Township as apprentices who receive on-the-job training and get paid to attend classes.
“It’s everything that I want to do — troubleshooting, fixing things,” said Adam Wellard, who learned about the program from his guidance counselor at Abington Heights High School.
“I really like technology,” said Zubair Bin-Abdul Waahid, who learned about the apprenticeship program from the teacher who taught a business law class at Pittston Area High School.
Tyler Zaykoski, from Mountain Top, and Paul Smith, from Wyoming, also recognized the “win-win” situation and are grateful for the chance to become apprentices at Greiner, which manufactures such packaging items as yogurt containers.
When the four apprentices are finished with the three-year program, it is extremely likely they will continue to work for Greiner, said David Kirkland, president of Greiner Packaging USA, which is headquartered in Pittston Township.
Kirkland, who grew up in Northern Ireland, started with Greiner as an apprentice himself, 14 years ago, in the United Kingdom.
“It’s much more common in Europe than in the United States” to serve an apprenticeship, Kirkland said, explaining apprentices are different from interns because the employer has made the commitment of hiring them, and they can expect to stay for a long time.
It’s not uncommon for some of his European colleagues to have a 30- or 40-year career with the company where they started as apprentices, Kirkland said.
Apprentices work a 28-hour week at Greiner Packaging, but are paid for 40 hours, allowing them time to take classes at Luzerne County Community College, where they are working on degrees in mechatronics, a technology that contains elements of both electronics and mechanical engineering.
For the company, Kirkland said, the investment is “short-term pain, long-term gain.” It’s expensive in the beginning, but can result in employees who are well-prepared for such jobs as designing products and maintaining and repairing high-tech equipment.
To make sure the apprentices are well-rounded, they rotate among several different departments at Greiner, spending six weeks at each one.
The international company was founded by a pair of brothers in 19th century Austria whose first packaging adventure involved corks for wine bottles, and a large cowbell on display in the lobby at the local facility hints at the company’s old-time, Alpine roots.
Today, the company, which is represented in 19 different countries, manufactures products as diverse as foam for mattresses and Petri dishes for medical use. Greiner Packaging has been represented in the Pittston area since 2014.