SANFORD - Ten high school seniors from Harnett County have just launched their careers thanks to a new welding apprenticeship offered through Central Carolina Community College.
The two-year Central Carolina Apprenticeship Works program in Welding Technology is a cooperative venture with Harnett County Schools, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, and several local companies. It combines college courses with part-time work to prepare students for employment as welders in the metalworking and manufacturing industries.
"We appreciate everyone working together to create the apprenticeship, especially the companies sponsoring our students," says Stephen Athans, CCCC's Dean of Vocational and Technical Programs. "This is a wonderful opportunity for students to get an education beyond high school, develop some valuable technical skills and have an opportunity for a rewarding, long-term career."
Students begin each day at their high schools, generally taking one course to complete their high school graduation requirements, before moving to CCCC's Harnett Main Campus in Lillington for college welding courses. After lunch, they head to local industries to put what they're learning into practice.
During their initial fall semester, on-the-job training focuses on less-skilled tasks and how companies operate. Athans says students may begin by loading, measuring, bending or cutting metal, but they'll primarily be learning how everything works. As they move through the second semester, the tasks become more technical and complex.
Once they graduate from high school in May, the focus shifts to more intricate skills -- with two welding courses in the summer, four in the fall, and three in the spring. When they complete the apprenticeship, students will have earned their Welding Technology Certificate, after the equivalent of two semesters of study, and their Welding Technology Diploma.
On-the-job training follows a highly structured program. Before receiving the certification that allows them to work as a welder, students must complete a set number of hours on a defined list of skills.
Athans says many students are attracted by the financial benefits of the apprenticeship. College courses are offered tuition-free, using tuition waivers available to apprentices through the North Carolina Community College System, and students are paid up to 20 hours per week for their work at local companies.
Godwin Manufacturing in Dunn and Central Carolina Tire in Cameron currently have apprentices working in their facilities. Arrangements are also pending to place another student at Olivia Machine and Tool in Olivia.
Pat Godwin Jr., president of Godwin Manufacturing, says he and "quite a few" of the company's longtime employees took advantage of a similar apprenticeship years ago and were sorry to see it disappear. But he's thrilled to see the idea blossom once again because the arrangement is good for the community and for the family-owned business. Among other things, it develops highly skilled, local employees that will help the company expand.
"There's always turnover, but that's particularly true if someone lives outside of our immediate area and later finds a job closer to home," says Godwin. "This is a way for us to develop home-grown employees. And because they're starting work in high school, we can offer the training they need from the very first day and they're more likely to stay with us for years to come."
The first class of Harnett County welding apprentices includes Walker Brock and Donovan Burroghs of Lillington; Zachary Carl of Broadway; Alex Culbreth and Hughie Stewart of Coats; Patrick Elliott, Elisabeth Finch, Zachary Knight, and William Moore of Fuquay-Varina; and Jessup Overton of Dunn.
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit the website www.cccc.edu.
Ten high school seniors from Harnett County have just launched their careers thanks to a new welding apprenticeship offered through Central Carolina Community College. Pictured are, left to right: Donovan Burroughs, Elisabeth Finch, Alex Culbreth, William Moore, Hughie Stewart, Jessup Overton, Walker Brock, Zachary Knight, Zachary Carl, and Patrick Elliott.