LILLINGTON - High school seniors in Central Carolina Community College's Harnett County machining apprenticeship took their first big step toward a successful career last month when they were awarded two industry credentials.
The seven students studying computer integrated machining received their Occupational Safety and Health Administration general industry safety card after completing 10 hours of instruction designed to help entry-level workers understand hazards in the workplace. They also received a credential from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills certifying their skills in measurement, materials, and safety.
"Both of these credentials are recognized throughout the industry and will give the students a head start in their careers," said Edwin Thomas, chair of the Central Carolina Community College Computer Integrated Machining program. "This requires a lot of work to achieve. The students should be very proud of their accomplishments."
Apprentices are participating in an innovative, three-year arrangement among Central Carolina Community College, Harnett County Schools, and local industries, where students combine high school and college courses with real-world experience in local companies.
During their senior year, apprentices begin each day taking some final classes at their high schools before heading to CCCC's Lillington Campus for college courses. Right now, they're focusing on math and machining. After graduating from high school, they continue taking college courses full-time toward an Associate in Applied Science in Tool, Die, and Mold Making.
Along the way, apprentices also work at local industries, gaining experience and earning income. Boon Edam Inc., DBI Automation Inc., Godwin Manufacturing, Magneti Marelli Powertrain USA, and Ruhl Tech Engineering currently sponsor apprentices, providing work and a scholarship through the CCCC Foundation for students to continue their studies after high school.
Taking a few minutes from math class to discuss their experience in the program, the students said they entered the apprenticeship from different directions. A few had experience in machining, others knew nothing about the trade at all.
The one thing that united them all was what Jacob Mouton called "a free ride." Students in the apprenticeship receive their education without paying tuition, something that was clearly attractive to members of this inaugural class.
"It seemed like something good to check out," said Dalton Branson, who makes the half-hour drive every day from his home in western Harnett County near Cameron. "If it was free and I could give it a test run, then I wasn't going to pass it up."
While cost was a prime consideration, it wasn't the only one. Students point out that beginning their education in high school allows them to get started on their careers quickly. Employers have an option to keep them on full time after they finish. And all of the moving parts in this career path are arranged and coordinated by the college.
"They set up everything for us," Branson said. "They said, 'You're going to have a job and go to school.' All you've got to do is show up."
The OSHA card and NIMS credential students received are just the first they'll earn along the way. If they stay on track, students will receive their certificate in machining next month and diploma next year before finishing with their associate degree in the summer of 2018.
The entire experience has made an impression on everyone, but it has changed the trajectory for Jessee Hall. Before entering the program, he was thinking about a career in computer technology. But that has changed. "I'm going in this direction now," he explains. "I felt like being in computer tech I would sit around typing. This is more hands-on and you get to build stuff."
Thomas says that's exactly what the apprenticeship is designed to do: Give students a true assessment of industry and help them decide if it's a career they want to pursue. On the other hand, it certainly doesn't hurt that they can do it quickly -- and for free.
High school seniors in Central Carolina Community College's Harnett County machining apprenticeship include Tyler Walters of Mamers, Jessee Hall of Cameron, Dalton Branson of Cameron, Jacob Mouton of Duncan, and Marshall Norris of Mamers. Also participating in the apprentice program, but not pictured, are John Holly of Mamers and Billy Sullivan of Dunn.