Through his innovations, a young man who is both a McDowell High student and a part-time worker is helping one of our leading manufacturing companies increase efficiency and productivity.

A resident of the Glenwood community, McKale McKinney, 18, is the son of Rhonda Wright and Scott McKinney. As a senior at McDowell High, he is also enrolled in the school’s apprenticeship program.

Through this program, McKinney takes classes at the high school in the morning hours and then attends machining classes at McDowell Technical Community College during the evenings.

On Aug. 20 of last year, he started working at ABB Motors and Mechanical Inc. (formerly known as Baldor) on a part-time basis from noon to 3 p.m. each day. He currently is trained to assemble mounted bearings in our flange department and earns $15.28 an hour in his part-time job.

“We gave him the same opportunity and the same expectations,” said Plant Manager Mark Earley. “He’s the last person to touch that equipment. He came to us with the same qualities we expect throughout the company.”

Along with his education and his part-time work, the young McKinney decided to take his ambition one step further.

“It’s not just a job to him,” said Earley of McKinney.

McKinney designed and made at his home a prototype device that has increased efficiency at ABB.

“He came up with an easier way to do this,” said Earley.

What he actually came up with is a new device for greasing the roller bearings that are made at ABB. Earley said it saves about 25 percent of the time needed for manufacturing.

On Tuesday, he was recognized by the management of ABB and representatives from other local industries for his initiative and innovations. This took place at the January meeting of the Workforce Pipeline Committee, which was held at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center. Chuck Abernathy, director of the McDowell Economic Development Association, and Steve Bush, director of the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, were there along with managers and representatives of almost all of the manufacturing companies in the county.

“We want to foster that type of behavior,” said Earley. “How many of us at 18 years old had a career plan?”

School Superintendent Mark Garrett was there as well to help recognize McKinney.

“This potential that McKale has got is all across our school system,” said Garrett.

Once he graduates from McDowell High this year, the young man will already have a year of college completed at McDowell Tech. He plans to continue his college education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After graduating from college, he plans to come back to ABB in Marion and work full time.

Earley said another high school student, Blake Tucker, completed a similar program and was hired full-time as a machinist.

After hearing others praise his work, McKinney said to The McDowell News he is just “very grateful for everyone to recognize him and being able to work for ABB.”

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