Two high school seniors have their future careers at their fingertips after signing letters of intent with a local manufacturing company.

McKale McKinney and Branson Peek, seniors at McDowell High School (MHS), are both employed by ABB, formerly Baldor, as assemblers making mounted roller bearings at over $15 an hour. They worked with ABB as part of Career and Technical Education pre apprenticeship program. Now, they have the opportunity to continue their career at ABB, while continuing their education.

A ceremony was held in the metals shop at MHS where family, friends, teachers and ABB employees joined in celebrating Peek and McKinney. ABB Plant Manager Mark Earley said having the partnership with McDowell County Schools and McDowell Technical Community is a huge benefit to their company.

“We have had a shortage of skilled machinists for a long time, and we have grown despite of that, but it’s come at a cost,” Earley told The McDowell News. “We are looking to get more of a pipeline coming from the high school. We have a tremendous relationship both with the high school and McDowell Tech to help us with that endeavor. Their advocacy here feeds right in with our objective of getting people’s attention early that manufacturing is still a viable career track.”

The letter of intent brings the two young men on as full time workers where they will move up from the assembly lines to working on machines after graduation.

“The world is for them with ABB,” Earley said. “They can stay regionally and pursue different jobs around the world. Hopefully for them it provides them a pathway to a tangible career.”

Both McKinney and Peek are working on their associate’s degree currently, and will pursue their degrees in engineering, which ABB plans to foot the bill. McKinney has been recognized statewide for designing a prototype at home that improves efficiency by about 25 percent.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for anybody interested in the field of this line of work,” McKinney said. “It will teach you anything and everything you need to know on the trade, and you will be that far ahead of the game. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to see what else I can do. I got another project I am working on so it’s a long shot.”

Peek echoed McKinney’s sentiments about his career path, saying ABB has opened a lot of doors for him.

“It’s just awesome having the opportunity especially just being in high school,” he said. “I took this class in high school, and ever since then I have loved machining.”

MHS machining instructor Keith Scoles got emotional at the signing ceremony talking about McKinney and Peek.

“What people don’t understand is the time the kids put into it,” said Scoles. “Branson and McKale, they will go to school until 11:30and go to ABB and work until 3 p.m. and then they come to me at MTCC and take night classes. They are there every day. I have spent more time with him than I do my own kids.”

Scoles said ABB has been a huge support of the high school program.

“They give me tons of tools,” he said. “They buy materials for the kids to practice on. They let us come over and they give tours. They give me measuring instruments. Just about anything I have ever asked for, they have provided me. They are a big part of our success. We have top of the line tooling because of ABB. Mary Finley has never told me no, but ABB will step up.”

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