Local officials, manufacturers launch new job training program

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

A signing ceremony was held Wednesday for the McDowell County School Pre-Apprenticeship program at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center on the campus of McDowell Technical Community College. The signing ceremony included (from left) Jerry Broome with Region C Workforce Development Board; Mary Finley, career and technical education (CTE) director for McDowell County Schools; Scott Dadson, executive director of the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission; Shari Phelps with NC Works; John Pinkerton with Baldor Electric; Priscilla Nunn with Baxter Healthcare; Nikii Pittman with Columbia Forest Products; Vincent Wilson with Continental Automotive; Andy Beach with WestRock; and School Superintendent Mark Garrett.

On Wednesday, representatives from the school system, local manufacturing companies and the N.C. Department of Commerce signed their names to a new program that will help young folks find good careers in McDowell County.

A signing ceremony was held for the McDowell County School Pre-Apprenticeship program at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center on the campus of McDowell Technical Community College.

Pre-Apprenticeship is a job training program that allows participants to explore an industry before they decide to join it. “Unlike apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship gives participants the choice of either learning in the classroom, gaining on-the-job experience, or pursuing both at the same time. Participants also earn credit that can carry over to apprenticeship training in the same field (similar to how students can earn AP credit for college courses while still in high school),” reads the Website for NC Works of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

If the participants choose to pursue full apprenticeship training in that field, then they can start the program earning a higher wage than they otherwise would have made.

“Students can receive pre-apprenticeship training while they are still in school,” reads the Website. “Schools work with apprenticeship sponsors that provide exposure to the work environment. Programs for out-of-school youth are often sponsored by community or faith-based organizations that work with apprenticeship sponsors or other employers to address behavioral, economic, and other barriers to employment of youth who do not have a clear career path. These programs provide a work experience for participants through the registered apprenticeship sponsor partner or other employers.”

Wednesday’s ceremony marked the beginning of this program in McDowell.

Shari Phelps, apprenticeship and training consultant with the N.C. Department of Commerce, talked about how pre-apprenticeship training works and what it will mean for McDowell County.

It will be a part of the new Advanced Manufacturing courses which will be offered at McDowell High School starting with the 2017-2018 school year. High school students who take part will receive more customized training targeted for the advanced manufacturing industry. Some students will have the opportunity for additional training in such skilled jobs such as machine operator, machinist and industrial maintenance, according to a news release from the school system.

The signing ceremony included Mary Finley, career and technical education (CTE) director for McDowell County Schools; Scott Dadson, executive director of the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission; John Pinkerton with Baldor Electric; Priscilla Nunn with Baxter Healthcare; Nikii Pittman with Columbia Forest Products; Vincent Wilson with Continental Automotive and Andy Beach with WestRock. They and others signed documents making McDowell a part of this new effort.

McDowell Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Bush and City Manager Bob Boyette were there to witness this signing. Jerry Broome with the Region C Workforce Development Board said this event was a long time in coming.

School Superintendent Mark Garrett said when he first came to McDowell this was being developed.

“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we pull together and find solutions,” said Garrett. “We’re not at the end but I think we are blazing a trail here. This is going to help the community.”

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