COVINGTON, Ga. - The future looks bright for Rashid Outar, Steven Holmes, James Kauffman, Matt Launder, Amaru Lackey, and Nolan Miller. The six Newton County School System (NCSS) sophomores are the first school district students to enroll in the new Industrial Mechanic apprenticeship program, modeled after the highly successful program in Germany. Four students from Rockdale County Schools are also participating in the program brought about by the partnership of the two school districts, the Newton College & Career Academy, Rockdale Career Academy, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, local industries, the German American Chamber of Commerce, Newton County Chamber of Commerce, The Rockdale Development Authority, and Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Together the group participates in the Georgia Consortium for Advanced Technical Training.
If they successfully complete the program, the students will have progressed through a technical college program leading to a diploma and will be just a few credits shy of a college associate’s degree. They will have achieved the highly respected German-American Chamber of Commerce certification as an Industrial Mechanic, earned a U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship certificate, have no college debt and enter the workforce with a high-demand job upon their high school graduation. And they will accomplish all this while also having the opportunity to earn between $20,000 to $25,000 while still in high school.
“This program is effectively a $40,000+ scholarship as the Georgia Piedmont Technical College degree program is fully paid by the State and the training costs for the apprenticeship is borne by the company,” said Dr. Tim Schmitt, NCSS Director of CTAE and Workforce Innovation. “The apprentices are dual-enrolled students, splitting their time between high school, technical college and a local manufacturing plant.”
The students selected for this opportunity participated in a lengthy process before earning their final acceptance into the German Apprenticeship program. Upon earning recommendations by their CTAE or Work Based Learning coordinators, the students were then required to take the Accuplacer technical college entrance exam. Those who scored high enough for technical college admissions were invited to participate in information/interest sessions hosted by the companies. Those with a definite interest after the sessions then participated in a quick interview night where the companies interacted with each student in a five-minute interview.
According to Schmitt, the companies ranked the students in order of “best-fit” for their companies and the students also generated a “best-fit” choice of companies.
“Using the sheets from the companies and students, matches were made to set up full-length interviews at the companies,” Schmitt explained. “The companies offered the apprenticeship positions to their candidates based on those final interviews and each of the students who were offered placements accepted them.”
While in the program, the students will take nine required high school classes at both their base school and the Newton College and Career Academy in addition to the following courses at Georgia Piedmont Technical College: Manufacturing Processes, Mechanical Laws and Principles, Industrial Mechanics, AC and DC Circuit Analysis, Maintenance for Reliability, Machine Tools for Industrial Repairs, Manufacturing Production Requirements, Heat Treatment and Surface Grinding, CNC Fundamentals, Manufacturing Quality Control, and Flexible Manufacturing Systems I and II.
“The apprentices will spend an increasing amount of time at their host manufacturer,” Schmitt explained. “Only a few hours per week in the first year but increasing to 50 percent or more of their time in year three. The time at the company is spent completing additional learning projects and expanding their knowledge by participating in the maintenance, support and other technical activities required to operate the facility.”
Schmitt noted, “Industrial Mechanics are in great demand, with most companies struggling to fill positions. The US Bureau of Labor estimates the demand for Industrial Mechanics will grow by 16 percent per year.”
He added, “Our Economic Development department approached us and GPTC about starting the program because of a huge deficit in manufacturing professionals in our community. Not long ago, there were close to 900 openings in the field that companies could not fill. The goal of this Industrial Maintenance apprenticeship program is to provide an avenue to success for students interested in careers in the manufacturing arena, while also helping our local business/industry partners fill a needed workforce pipeline. We realize that paths to success can vary from student to student and this is one option that is appealing to some students.”
The students involved in this year’s inaugural class of the apprenticeship program will finish high school with three years of manufacturing work experience, two technical certificates of credit from GPTC, a technical diploma from GPTC, and be just a few courses shy of an associate’s degree.
“They will also, likely, be hired full-time with the companies they are serving and will be positioned to advance within those companies much easier than typical new-hires,” said Schmitt.
The school system’s goal is to continue to add more students to the German Apprenticeship Program each year.
“The model is built so that a company has three levels of apprentices in the pipeline—year 1, 2, and 3,” Schmitt explained. “We believe all five of our current partnering companies will continue to hire new ‘year one’ student apprentices and hope to add additional companies to allow for more placements. Additional, we will continue to look at the workforce needs in our community and will work with the county Economic Development Office and GPTC to potentially develop this model for other areas such as healthcare support professionals, television/film support professionals, etc.”
“This is a great opportunity to further strengthen our school system and business/industry partnerships,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “The German apprenticeship model prepares students to utilize advanced level skills as they assume employment when they graduate from high school. This model is an enhancement to our educational programming and I look forward to creating additional opportunities with our local businesses and industries to strengthen their workforce pipeline. It’s a win-win for students and our local companies. The evolution of our partnership with the newton county Chamber of Commerce’s economic development team has led to a renewed emphasis on workforce development and educational options.”
“Connecting our Newton and Rockdale Career Academies, with GPTC (Creating a Registered German Apprenticeship Program), to our regions workforce systems is a win-win partnership,” said David Bernd, Vice President of Economic Development for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce. “The strategy helps businesses thrive by building a highly-skilled, highly-productive workforce, and it helps students access and maintain stable careers with above average wages. By using apprenticeships as a work-based learning strategy, the workforce system can increase worker skills, meet employer needs, and enhance performance outcomes. Additionally, apprenticeships are a successful job-driven training strategy that can be an effective recruiting tool for our regions four targeted industries, Bio/Life Science, Advanced Manufacturing, Service Industry, and Film and Entertainment.”