ASHEBORO — Apprenticeship Randolph, a local initiative from local businesses, Randolph Community College, Randolph County Schools and Asheboro City Schools, celebrated its inaugural class of graduates earlier this month.
Apprenticeship Randolph began in June 2016 as a collaboration among Randolph Community College, the Randolph County School System, Asheboro City Schools, the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce, and local manufacturers. The goal was to bridge both the interest and skill gaps in modern manufacturing and provide a vehicle for expanding the workforce pool for advance manufacturing in the county. The program allows participants a debt-free education.
The program is for high school juniors and seniors and begins with a six-week, pre-apprenticeship summer program that consists of RCC classes and 40 hours per week of on-the-job training. Once a business selects its apprentice after this trial period, the program is spread over four years with students receiving paid, on-the-job training while earning an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Manufacturing Technology or Information Technology through RCC and a Journeyworker Certificate from the N.C. Community College System and U.S. Department of Labor.
At a celebratory dinner honoring the first eight graduates on August 10, 14 new apprentices were announced. Business and civic leaders joined the celebration.
Chris Harrington, Director of Operations at Elastic Therapy Inc., opened the dinner welcoming everyone in attendance, noting that every company represented at the event were founding partners that helped start the program. He then introduced the eight graduates, having them stand to be recognized as their name was called.
“It wasn’t too long ago when we kicked off this thing called Apprenticeship Randolph,” Harrington said. “We had some mentors that helped guide us, but we built the car as we were driving down the road. We’re very proud of this first cohort. It took a lot of flexibility and adaptability. I also want to thank everyone that helped the program and these eight gentlemen — they didn’t do it by themselves. In addition to the schools, the College, the companies, and other community organizations, we want to recognize the family members, the mentors, and the people in the support network that’s so critical to success.”
Brandon Hill, who boasted the highest GPA of the graduates, addressed the group. “I just want to say what a ride it’s been the past four years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. To our families and significant others, thank you. Your support throughout this whole process has gotten us to where we are today.” Hill said he glad the program was created to give students an alternative pathway to successful career beyond a four-year university. “Thanks to you, the eight of us graduating are not buried under student loans and have a college degree and great career.”
Following the dinner, a graduation and signing ceremony was held at the R. Alton Cox Learning Resources Center Auditorium. The 14 pre-apprentices each came onstage to sign their apprenticeship contracts with industry partner representatives.
“I knew I wanted to do something with my hands and didn’t want to go a university for another four years. This is perfect,” said new apprentice, Reece Beeson, who signed with United Brass Works Inc. “I was able to meet [United Brass Works] early on multiple times. I feel like they’re a good company, very family-oriented. I love to tinker. I love to take stuff apart and put it together and see how things work.”
Beeson said he wasn’t concerned about a four-year commitment.
“It’s just a number,” he said. “If you’re doing something you like, it won’t take long.”
The evening ended with a celebration of the eight graduates who turned their tassels ready for their careers.