Walter Newman is good at working with his hands – from woodwork to carpentry to welding.
In August Newman is going to try something new – working maintenance on the machines and equipment used at VTL Group,
Newman is a rising 11th grader at Fort Dorchester High School and said a school guidance counselor presented the opportunity for him to partake in an apprenticeship program.
“The guidance counselor said she knows I like to work with my hands and thought it’d be a pretty good program,” he said.
Newman is one of 11 rising juniors and seniors from six area high schools who have entered the inaugural class of the Youth Apprenticeship Program in Manufacturing.
In collaboration with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, high schools in the tri-county area and Trident Technical College, students will work as paid industrial mechanic apprentices as Bosch, Detyens Shipyards, Hubner Manufacturing, IFA Rotorion and VTL Group.
Students will take high school classes in the morning and Trident Technical industrial mechanics courses for dual credit in the afternoon twice a week. They will also receive paid on-the-job training through mentored employment throughout the year.
The program was organized by Trident Tech’s Director of Apprenticeships Mitchell Harp.
Harp said he runs adult apprenticeship programs in the area and has had industry owners tell him that kids seldom enter work fields such as machinery or industrial mechanics.
“It’s exciting because they (employers) are offering these young people the opportunity to get a really marketable skill,” he said.
To ensure all the students who applied had an equal opportunity to participate in the program, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce offered to provide scholarships for every apprentice student. The scholarships will cover the entire cost of tuition and books.
Harp said once the students complete the program they will earn “an abundance” of credentials including a Journeyman credential from the United States Department of Labor, a Trident Technical College certification, a high school diploma and two years of work experience.
“It’s really a no-brainer,” Harp said.
When they complete the apprenticeship program Harp said the students are not guaranteed jobs at the places they work but will still be “highly employable.”
“They are probably going to flow right into an adult program when they grow up,” he said. “This model allows them to get that skill.”
Harp added he has already received calls from new employers wanting to participate in the program.
“We are definitely expanding it,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community already.”