Apprenticeships on the horizon to help Horry, Georgetown students - businesses, too

vgrooms@thesunnews.comJanuary 21, 2014 

  • For more information

    Apprenticeship Carolina | www.apprenticeshipcarolina.com

    Employers interested in the program can email Eileen Patonay at epatonay@scpathways.org.

A program is in the works to provide on-the-job training for high school students in a variety of businesses, including health care and hospitality, along with the accompanying credentials to enter the workforce when they graduate.

The program is through Apprenticeship Carolina, an arm of the state’s technical college system, and is coming to the Horry and Georgetown school districts by the fall.

Apprenticeship Carolina is part of the system’s Economic Development and Workforce Competitiveness division and works specifically with businesses to link them with high schools to create apprenticeship opportunities, said Brian Rauschenbach with Apprenticeship Carolina.

“[The businesses] can develop these apprenticeships with students, starting at age 16 and create a successful pipeline of talent,” Rauschenbach said. “They get to grow their own workforce.”

The Georgetown County School District has been approved to participate in the program for all of its Career and Technology Education programs at the district’s four high schools, said Eileen Patonay, Waccamaw Regional Education Center coordinator. An initial meeting was held earlier this month for Horry County Schools, a larger district with 10 high schools and two academies.

Setting up a program is a long-term process, Patonay said, and buy-in comes not only from the school districts, but also from Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Coastal Carolina University and business groups. The program covers many different career clusters, with Apprenticeship Carolina verifying the school curriculum and aligning it with national labor standards for each occupation before bringing businesses in, she said, and the program is part of the national registered apprenticeship system.

The program also is being introduced in Williamsburg County, Patonay said, and has been blossoming in the Aiken and Greer areas. The state system was even featured in the Dec. 2 issue of New York Times.

“When they hear apprentice, people think factory, but a lot of businesses need workers with specific, high-tech skills,” Patonay said. “We had our meeting with Horry County Schools at BauschLinnemann – that building is state of the art. It’s a German company, and they were meeting with folks from Sweden, so we’re getting kids ready for a global economy.”

Students can begin the program at age 16 and must complete 1,000 hours each year, and the work can be done on weekends and during the summer, but they must graduate to receive their credential, Patonay said. Any business can participate, and those that do can get a state tax credit of $1,000 for each apprentice per year for up to four years, in addition to being able to fill a need for specifically trained workers.

The Georgetown County School District has been approved to participate for all of its Career and Technology Education programs and could begin placing students this semester, although it probably won’t take off until fall when more businesses are onboard, said Patti Pierce, the Georgetown district’s director of career and technology education.

“It gives our students great opportunities because businesses are going to want to train them to meet their needs for workers,” Pierce said.

Ben Hardee, director of career and technology for Horry County Schools, said more district officials will be brought into program talks to help iron out the details, but he thinks apprenticeships could work for all of the district’s secondary schools. Students also will have to maintain good grades and attendance to participate, he said.

“I think it’ll be a good program,” Hardee said. “We’re hoping we will have enough ironed out to at least do the beginning process in the next school year.”

Patonay said the program is a win for students, who will get insight into a profession and learn skills to fall back on, but they could still go on for additional training at HGTC or CCU.

“But it’s not just education – it’s a pipeline for economic development, and it can only help recruit more businesses our way,” Patonay said. “It’s rewarding helping our students and our businesses, which grows our education. It’s really a circle.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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