First CAT youth welding apprentices graduate
Gov. Pat McCrory (left) and other government, education and industry leaders gathered at Caterpillar ... (more)
The Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program in welding held its first graduation May 15 at Caterpillar ... (more)
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (left), N.C. Sen. Ronald Rabin (center, back), and N.C. Rep. Mike Stone (right) ... (more)
SANFORD - Gov. Pat McCrory and other government, education and industry leaders gathered at Caterpillar Inc.'s Sanford Fabrication Facility May 15 to celebrate the achievements of the first group of students to graduate from the Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program in welding.
The leaders praised the graduates' achievements and the program that made it possible for these high school students to gain certifications and workplace experience in the in-demand, well-paying field of welding.
McCrory told the gathering that the biggest feedback the state receives from companies considering a move to North Carolina is that they will come - if a trained workforce is available.
"Apprenticeships are common in Europe, but there has been a disconnect between commerce and education in our country," McCrory said. "This program overcomes that. Caterpillar, Lee County and Central Carolina Community College are leading the way. These graduates will do extremely well with their skills; they will always find jobs."
The two-year Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program in welding was started in 2012 by a partnership of Caterpillar, CCCC, Lee County Schools, and the N.C. Department of Commerce. Its purpose is to train high school students for careers in welding, as well as to help provide the skilled welding workforce that Caterpillar and other industries need.
Eight graduating students were honored: George Alfaro, Steven Bouldin, Biagio Esposito, Antonio Murchison, Ashley Stack, and Anthony Woodlief, all of Southern Lee High School; and James Kirik and Briana Peterman, of Lee County High School.
"This program was a great opportunity to get a new skill that not many people get," Bouldin said. "It was better than I thought it would be - it was a great experience. The collaboration of the schools and the company was a big part of getting us through."
Bouldin now plans to get a job at Caterpillar and go into the Marine Corps reserves.
The apprentices took welding and manufacturing-related classes during their junior and senior years of high school. They trained at the college's Lee County Campus or Innovation Center three days a week and worked/trained at Caterpillar two days per week. State per-student community college funding, state Customized Training funds, and Caterpillar covered the cost of the training.
By graduation, the students had earned their high school diploma, CCCC welding certificate, and a Department of Commerce certificate recognizing participation in a state-approved high school apprenticeship program. They could also take exams to earn their OSHA Safety Card and Career Readiness Credential.
The students also completed the 80-hour Caterpillar Accelerated Training Program, hours toward the company's adult apprentice in welding program, and two years experience as part-time Caterpillar employees. At age 18, they can apply for a position at Caterpillar and will get preferred employment opportunity.
As the graduates' names were announced by Brad Crace, Caterpillar-Sanford plant manager, the new apprentice welders stepped forward and received their certificates. They then shook hands with McCrory and education and business leaders: Dr. Andy Bryan, Superintendent of Lee County Schools; Dr. Bud Marchant, president of Central Carolina Community College; Donnie Oldham, chair of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation; Dr. Linwood Powell, chair of the State Board of Community Colleges; William Cobey, chair of the State Board of Education; and Reid Waitt, Caterpillar general manager for compact construction equipment.
"Collaborative apprentice programs will become a major resource for the highly skilled workforce that industry and our nation must have to maintain their roles as leaders of the global economy," Marchant said following the event. "The college's mission is to empower people through education and training. Through the collaborative Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program in welding, these young people have been empowered in ways that will open opportunities for them the rest of their lives."
The graduation drew a number of elected and appointed local, county and state officials in recognition of the importance of apprentice programs to economic development and competitiveness on a global scale. Among them were Congresswoman Renee Ellmers; N.C. Sen. Ronald Rabin; N.C. Rep. Mike Stone; N.C. Community College System President Dr. Scott Ralls; members of the State Board of Community Colleges and State Board of Education; Charlene Cross, Kathryn Castelloes, and Will Collins, all of the N.C. Department of Commerce; Lee County commissioners; Lee County Board of Education; Sanford officials; and others.
"We know we need talent in industry, we know we have talented students in our schools," said Rabin. "Apprentice programs are a great way to get them together to benefit all sides of the equations. Politicians can't create jobs. We can say there will be less tax, less regulation and create an environment favorable to business growth, but only business with the support of the community can create jobs. We have to have the educational process in place to train workers."
In addition to celebrating the graduation of the first apprentices, students entering their second year of the program were recognized and a new group of apprentice students were inducted.
The students who will start the program in the fall are: Andrew Lin, Robert Cockerham, Edgar Terrones, Robert Marble, Hayden Douglas, Patrick Hinzman, Nathan Repko, Matthew Mutchler, Bernard Williams, Isidro Castaneda-Flores, Hannah Jones, Kourtney Ellerby, all of Southern Lee High School; and Zachary Powers, Christian Cedeno-Lemus, James Byrd, Aidan Dorman, all of Lee County High School.
"It's a very good program," said Cedeno-Lemus. "I like to do hands-on and it's a very motivating program. With this program, I will be the first in my family to have a good career."
Students entering their second year of the program in the fall were also recognized: Cody Baker, Gage Chambley, Duncan Riddle IV, Sir William Shoop, Tristian Dennis, Jesse Moore, Jonathan Godfrey, Ivan Vilchis, and Adan Renteria-Lascano, all of Lee County High School; and Ellizon Torres, Brandon Donathan, Christopher Baker, Noel Martinez, Joseph Matthews, William Semar, Jr., and Fernando Terrones, all of Southern Lee High School.
For more information about the Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program in welding, contact Lee County Schools Career Development coordinators Gary Hart, at Southern Lee High School, ghart.sl.lee.k12.nc.us, or Alison Poole at Lee County High School, firstname.lastname@example.org. At CCCC, contact Dr. Stephen Athans, dean of Vocational/Technical Programs, 919-718-7287, email@example.com.
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