For more than two decades, Hoang Phan worked whatever odd jobs he could find to keep the lights on and food on the table. But after enrolling in an industrial maintenance apprenticeship, he is now well on his way to a professional career.
In 2015, Hoang started working at Kroger Manufacturing-Centennial Farms Dairy in Atlanta. He was hired as a loadout team member, someone who organizes beverages and loads them onto trucks for distribution.
His employers appreciated his hard work, and noticed his penchant for tinkering with items that needed improvements – a habit that earned him the nickname “Mr. Fix-it” – and encouraged him to further develop his skills through an apprenticeship with the company. In 2016, Hoang was the first individual selected for Kroger Manufacturing’s new industrial maintenance apprenticeship, a program the business hopes to expand to all 35 manufacturing locations in the United States. There are currently 19 apprentices.
“If you don’t have a skill, it’s hard to get ahead,” said Hoang. “You have to learn something every day to succeed. That’s why I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
Hoang is halfway through the two-year program, which allows him to earn while he learns. Through a partnership with Atlanta Technical College, he is receiving the classroom technical training and hands-on experience needed for an associate degree as well as certifications to work as a maintenance technician. And there’s room for significant earnings growth: Hoang earned $14 per hour in the loading docks, but he’ll be eligible to earn up to $26 per hour as a maintenance technician once he completes the program. He also will be able to apply his certifications in any state.
“Because of this program, I have the chance to do something I really like,” said Hoang. “This program and this company gave me a chance to better myself.”
Adrienne Brown, the senior human resources leader at the Atlanta facility, says she has seen a remarkable change in Hoang from the time he was hired.
“We know we chose the right person for this apprenticeship,” Adrienne said. “He’s so committed and enthusiastic about what he is doing both in the class and here at the facility. He’s pretty much a walking, talking billboard for our program and the type of people we want working here.”
The 46-year-old father of three sees this opportunity he has earned through years of hard work and determination as a way to inspire not only his children, but his coworkers as well.
“After 25 years of working, I can now say that I have attained an education and career,” said Hoang. “I never thought I would get this far.”
Learn more about apprenticeship opportunities at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Editor’s note: Hoang’s story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.
Eric R. Lucero is a deputy director in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Atlanta.