The Alamance Career Accelerator Program (CAP) honored 10 students in a signing ceremony last week. High school students, along with their parents and industry partners, signed formal agreements kicking off their four-year apprenticeships.
Through CAP, students are not only paid for their time on the job, but they also receive payment for their time attending classes at Alamance Community College. The state covers the cost of tuition while industry partners cover the cost of books. Alamance-Burlington Schools Superintendent Bruce Benson called the program “an incredible opportunity for our young people” that is valued at $125,000 when taking into account paid school and work.
At the end of the program, apprentices will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in one of three areas: Mechatronics Engineering Technology, Computer-Integrated Machining Technology, or Industrial Systems Technology.
“I want you all to know this is a real partnership,” said Alamance Community College President Algie Gatewood. “For me, a partnership is when there’s something in it for everybody, and everybody brings something to the table.”
CAP launched five years ago when GKN Driveline, an automotive industry company, approached the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce with interest in starting an apprenticeship program. Today, the CAP program includes 33 apprentices and a well-established partnership between the Chamber, Alamance Community College, Alamance-Burlington Schools, and ten companies: AKG, Engineered Controls International, L.L.C., Fairystone Fabrics, GKN Driveline, Glen Raven, Indulor America LP, Jabil Packaging Solutions, Sandvik Coromant, Shawmut, and IntraPac (formerly known as Technical Precision Plastics).
“We’re very happy to have this program as part of the workforce puzzle that companies need to make their companies successful in Alamance County,” said Andrea Fleming, director of existing industry services at the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce.
The growth of the apprenticeship program in Alamance follows a nationwide and global trend in apprenticeship training. According to Kathryn Castelloes, director of ApprenticeshipNC, there are more than 10,000 active apprentices and more than 700 participating employers in the state.
“We are so excited about that because it has been over seven years since we’ve had that many,” Castelloes said. “Thank you to the students for stepping out there, for going out above and beyond and doing this. For the employers, kudos to you, because this just shows what the employers are willing to do for their community.”
Family members not only attended the ceremony, but also participated in the signing ceremony, with each apprenticeship agreement including the signature of a parent or guardian.
“I was pushing because he didn’t know what he wanted to do, and so I said, ‘You have to find something. There’s gotta be something that you want to do,'” said Reina Merino of her son, Miguel Aparicio, who learned about the program from a friend in school.
“It’s been a blessing so far,” Merino said.
Prior to their selection as apprentices, students had to meet rigorous academic and attendance requirements, participated in an orientation with local business leaders, completed two classes at Alamance Community College, and completed a six-week summer pre-apprenticeship at a host company.
“I did work a lot to get to this position,” said new apprentice Darius Ray, a graduate of Eastern High School who signed with Glen Raven. “I tried to do my best in class and try to go above and beyond at work and do what I needed to get to this point.”
When asked if he would recommend the opportunity to other high school students, Ray said that he would “one million percent” recommend it.
“I really don’t know anything better than this right here,” he said. “Because they pay for your schooling, you get paid to go to work, and you get a guaranteed job at the end of it.”
Ray’s former classmate and football teammate Braiden Willard also attended the event as a current apprentice to show support for the new cohort.
“Since I’ve been through it myself, it’s just cool seeing like the younger group going through it and knowing that they’re going to go through the same experiences as us,” said Willard, who is in the second year of his apprenticeship at IntraPac.
“I love it,” he said. “I get to see new things. I learn something new every day at work. I mean, it’s pretty great.”
To date, the CAP program has a 96% retention rate for its cohorts and will graduate its first class in 2020. Jim Bryan, owner and president of Fairystone Fabrics (an industry partner) and chair of CAP, said that the program will develop the next technical workforce in response to industry needs in mechatronics, IT, CNC machining, and electronics.
“I want to remind the apprentices tonight, some people consider you lucky to do what you do,” Bryan said. “I disagree. I believe you have earned your jobs by going through an extensive interview process. It put you ahead of your peers. It is the start of your next phase of learning, and you are earning while you are learning. And we are building a better workforce for tomorrow.”
Below is a list of new CAP apprentices and their industry partners.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Braden McDaniel’s first name in a caption. This article also previously misstated the name of the superintendent of Alamance-Burlington Schools. His name is Bruce Benson, not David Benson.