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Caterpillar's youth welding apprenticeship inducts 16

Click to enlarge Caterpillar's youth welding apprenticeship inducts 16

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The Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship Program in welding inducted 16 Lee County high school students ... (more)

Click to enlarge Caterpillar's youth welding apprenticeship inducts 16

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Ellizon Torres (left), of Southern Lee High School is congratulated by CCCC President Bud Marchant ... (more)

Click to enlarge Caterpillar's youth welding apprenticeship inducts 16

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Mark West (center), Lee County High School assistant principal, congratulates LCHS student Jonathan ... (more)

05.03.2013College & CommunityCurriculum ProgramsStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - Excitement about the future was as white-hot as a welding torch as the Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship Program in welding inducted 16 Lee County high school students. The induction was held May 2 at the company's Sanford Fabrication Facility in the Lee County Industrial Park.

"My interest in the program started last semester, when my guidance counselor told us about it," said Lee County High School student Jonathan Godfrey. "Getting into the apprenticeship program has been the best thing to happen to me. It's a great opportunity; I see it getting me places."

The two-year program was developed by a partnership among Caterpillar, Inc.-Sanford, Central Carolina Community College, Lee County Schools, and the N.C. Department of Labor. The NCDOL recognizes it as a registered youth apprenticeship, the second largest in the state, according to Charlene Cross, NCDOL apprenticeship representative.

"A registered apprenticeship is the best work experience," Cross said. "With the skill sets they will end up with, they'll be extremely marketable in a variety of industries. Also, what Caterpillar is doing is like a public service - one of the ways they give back to their community is to employ the youth of Lee County."

The goal of the program is to train high school students for critical, high-demand, well-paying careers in welding, as well as to help provide the skilled workforce Caterpillar and other modern industry need.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, there were about 338,000 welders in the United States in 2010. By 2020, it projects that there will be a need for about 51,000 more.

The students will continue their high school studies while taking welding-related classes at CCCC. During their junior and senior years, they will train at the college three days a week and work/train at Caterpillar-Sanford two days per week. Caterpillar pays enrolled students during the school year for their time working/training at its facility. In addition, students work up to 32 hours per week at Caterpillar during the summer between their junior and senior years.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will have earned a Welding Certificate from the college and a certificate from the NCDOL indicating successful completion of the apprenticeship; completed the 80-hour Caterpillar Accelerated Training Program and hours toward their adult apprenticeship; and have two years experience as part-time Caterpillar employees.

"Not many people around the world have an opportunity like this," Ellizon Torres, a Southern Lee High School student, said as he waited to be introduced to those gathered for the induction. "My friends told me that it was a great opportunity and would benefit me greatly in the future. I want an education and a future career. I'm glad to be here."

The students were introduced one-by-one to the audience of families, state and local government officials, and educators. They were congratulated, then received their official Caterpillar caps and a bag containing program background, orientation and apprenticeship employment information. Following the ceremony, the students and their families were given a tour of the facility, which opened in 2011 to fabricate skid steer and other types of loaders.

"When I look at these kids, they'll be able to get valuable skills, find well-paying careers, build good lives, raise their own kids, pay taxes, and improve the economy and quality of life in their communities - it doesn't get any better than that," said Dr. Bud Marchant, CCCC president.

Those inducted into the Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship Program in welding were Duncan Riddle IV, Sir William Shoop, Tristian Dennis, Ivan Vilchis, Adan Renteria-Lascano, Jesse Moore, Kayla Coleman, Cody Baker, Gage Chambley, Sean Stitt, and Jonathan Godfrey, all of Lee County High School; and Ellizon Torres, Brandon Donathan, Christopher Baker, Noel Martinez and Joseph Matthews, all of Southern Lee High School.

"Education is economic development," Dr. Andy Bryan, LCS associate superintendent, told the inductees, then added, "Your future is now. You are part of a small group across the state and the country. Support each other, represent your school well, and do your best."