Inhaling the smell of library books and freshly printed paper, senior Cameron Kindley picked up the hard hat in front of him and placed it on his head. He glanced at the three other boys sitting at the table with him and reached for his pen, ready to sign the contract that would give him the post-high school experience he had always longed for.
The pen scratched on the paper, and it was official: Kindley was now on track to be employed by Elkamet, Inc. in August 2019.
“It feels pretty great,” Kindley said. “Now I don’t have to worry about getting into a college, I can just say I got in for free. I didn’t have to worry about grades or anything like that. It’s kind of a relief.”
Kindley, along with seniors Donald Bannish, Will Keever and Riley Scheyer all participated in the Made in Henderson County Apprenticeship program, which was introduced this school year.
The program was spearheaded by BRCC President Laura Leatherwood when she was approached by a few manufacturing companies that wanted to partner with her. Students sign a contract that allows them to attend Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) with waived tuition as they work for a nearby manufacturing company.
“We needed an opportunity to share with students about jobs and career opportunities right here in Henderson County and in western North Carolina,” Laura Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College, said. “But also we have industry and our local companies that we want to help. They’re looking for employees, and we need them to be strong and find the workforce that we need.”
Principals from schools throughout the county were grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program when the idea was brought up in a meeting, according to West’s principal, Shannon Auten.
“This is such an awesome opportunity and I’m so happy that they’re staying in Henderson County with us,” Auten said. “For them to be able to continue the awesome things they’ve done in high school, but bring it into the workforce and then recruit more of our people, I think it’s awesome.”
West is the only Henderson County high school where all students participating ended up signing contracts for the same company. Other schools partnered with companies such as GF Linamar, among others.
“I’m very excited, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” senior Will Keever said. “It’s nice going into a job knowing that you have friends and buddies you can hang with.”
Along with Keever, Auten said she eagerly anticipating the future of the apprenticeship program, and can’t wait to see how it impacts the community.
“I’m proud every single day because (West students) do so many amazing things, but it’s just something like this that makes me smile all day long,” Auten said.
By: Elise Trexler, Web Editor-in-Chief