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Graduation ceremony held for Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship in Welding program

Click to enlarge,  Sixteen students completed the Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship in Welding this semester and celebrated on May 11 with a graduation ceremony at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center.

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Sixteen students completed the Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship in Welding this semester and celebrated ... (more)

05.13.2022College & CommunityCollege GeneralStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - Sixteen students completed the Caterpillar Youth Apprenticeship in Welding this semester and celebrated on May 11 with a graduation ceremony at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center.

A partnership among Caterpillar, Central Carolina Community College and Lee County Schools, the apprenticeship trains high school students for a high-demand career and helps provide the skilled workforce needed for Caterpillar and other high-tech industries to succeed.

Soon after the innovative program was created by the local groups one decade ago, it was praised by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2013 as a "partnership worth repeating."

Before each graduate was recognized, CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman opened the ceremony by commending students on their commitment to the challenging apprenticeship program and for working so diligently to achieve their goal.

"It is competitive to get in. It is competitive to stay in. It is competitive to finish," she said.

Isaiah Michael agreed. As one of the graduating students, he described what it was like to go through the two-year apprenticeship -- a challenge under normal circumstances, but even more difficult during the pandemic.

"This program has done more for all of us than just given us a job or taught us how to weld," he said. "This program has given us friendship and gave us all new experiences that we wouldn't have gotten in the normal high school experience."

Graduates received a 12-hour Welding Certificate from CCCC, a High School Recognition Certificate from the North Carolina Community College System, accrued work hours that will be applied toward their adult apprenticeship and a preferred employment opportunity at Caterpillar in Sanford.

That preferred employment opportunity is real. Caterpillar Section Manager Dan Johnson, who supervises the youth apprentices, said he currently has more than 150 welders working in Sanford and 25 percent have gone through the program.

"They didn't come in just to learn; they contributed," he said about this year's graduating class. "They built product. When you see those skid steer loaders going down the road on those tractor trailers, they helped build it."

Earlier in the ceremony, Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan reflected on what the welding apprenticeship represents more broadly -- an unmatched career opportunity for students as well as an economic development advantage for the entire community -- while congratulating students and parents on their accomplishment. "It really is a night of celebration," he said.

Graduates receiving certificates from CCCC Dean of Business and Applied Technologies Drew Goodson were: Erwin Avellaneda, Hernan Carcamo, Jose Cruz, Dylan Elmore, Jordan Farnsworth, Andrew Gomez Reza, Ashley Graham, Kenton Kelly, Isaiah Michael, Kristofer Nieto, Preston Richard, Mike Rodriguez, Isaias Sotelo, Kyle Townsend, Elmer Velasquez Gutierrez and Toni Woomer.