High-tech apprentice program adds York, Clover schools

news@enquirerherald.comNovember 7, 2013 

— Students in manufacturing programs at York and Clover high schools will be eligible this year to apply to apprentice with Charlotte employers who will pay them as they train and guarantee a job for those who finish.

The Apprenticeship 2000 program, which prepares students for careers in high-tech manufacturing, includes 8,000 hours of classroom instruction and on-the-job training during four years – for which students are paid. Students who finish it are guaranteed a job with a $34,000 annual salary and full benefits.

“This is the first true registered apprenticeship I’ve ever seen,” Ron Roveri, director of York’s Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center said, after introducing the program to the York school board.

Robert Shook, a training development specialist with Chiron, one of eight partner companies that are offering Apprenticeship 2000, said the program is expanding into South Carolina schools this year. Until now, he said, it has worked only with schools in North Carolina.

“The South Carolina schools in York County are just a hop, skip and a jump away from us, and we are sure that they have talent there,” said Shook, who earlier spoke to the Clover school board about the program.

High schools in the York, Clover and Fort Mill districts are the only South Carolina schools included in the program this year, he said. North Carolina participating schools include Cabarrus, Catawba, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gaston and Lincoln County, Iredell-Statesville and Mooresville schools.

The York and Clover school districts this year launched new training programs in manufacturing technologies, citing a need among area employers for a trained work force.

Shook acknowledged the demand for trained workers.

“As of today in Charlotte-Mecklenburg alone, there are 6,000 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs,” Shook said.

The apprentice program aims to help fill that gap, he said.

“What better way to get a perfectly trained employee than to hire a young person and grow them, train them to be the employee that you need,” he said.

He said manufacturing in the United States has to compete on a global market with many countries where labor costs are lower.

“Advanced manufacturing is America’s answer to competing in that global market,” Shook said. “We do it with high technology, automation, with machines that do most of the manufacturing once they are set up and ready to go.”

However, he said, that has created a need for trained employees to operate and repair the high-tech machinery.

“There are fewer people required to produce each part,” Shook said. “But the people that are required are more technologically knowledgeable and usually make a lot more money than somebody who did manufacturing 15 years ago.”

Shook said eight partner Apprenticeship 2000 companies in the Charlotte area work with Central Piedmont Community College, which offers the 1,600-hour classroom instruction portion of the training. The program also includes 6,400 hours of on-the-job skills training, he said.

Apprentices are paid for both classroom instruction and on-the-job training, at a gradually increasing rate that starts at $9 per hour for the first year and ends at $14 per hour the fourth year.

Shook said the company with which a student apprentices will pick up the cost of the tuition.

“Typically, a company is going to invest between $140,000 and $175,000 into the apprentice over the course of four years,” he said.

The first two partner companies were Blum and Daetwyler, which started the apprentice program in 2000, when the first four apprentices completed it. The six other partners are Chiron America, Phaff Molds, Siemens Energy, Ameritech Die and Mold, Sarstedt and Timken.

He said the Apprenticeship 2000 program has graduated 121 apprentices, including the first four, since 2000. He said 54 students are in the program now. Last year, 17 students were accepted.

Thomas Ray, assistant director of York’s technology center and its work-based learning coordinator, said the program is a great opportunity for students. However, it is a competitive program, he said.

“It’s vigorous,” he said.

Roveri agreed.

“You are going to be top-notch if you are selected,” he said. “They said they are going to be very selective.”

Roveri said the recruiting process, which is beginning now, includes prescreening candidates in October and November and a Dec. 14 open house where students and parents can learn about partner companies.

Students who want to apply will make a four-day visit to companies on Westinghouse Boulevard that will include exams – including a technical math exam – and visits to the operations areas. Students can choose the company with which they want to apprentice.

Students who are chosen by partner companies will have a six-week paid internship during the summer after their junior or senior year. After the internship, rising seniors begin youth apprenticeships in the fall, and graduates will begin registered apprenticeships.

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