ALAMANCE COUNTY, NC -- With the hopes of a free college education and a guaranteed job, many students in the Alamance-Burlington School System are jumping at the chance to apply for a newly-announced apprenticeship program.
"We're not made of money," said Eastern Alamance junior Dylan Hawkins. "Nobody is made of money, really. So college is an expensive thing. And not having to pay tuition would really help out."
The program, called the Career Accelerator Program, is a partnership between the Alamance-Burlington School System, Alamance Community College, the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce and seven local manufacturing companies.
Robin Bowers, Career and Technical Education director for the school system, said recent interest sessions for the program were packed.
"We had about 65 people at the first one and more than 70 at the second," Bowers said.
The program is structured so that seven local companies will hire high schoolers as apprentices. The students will learn job skills firsthand, and will also receive free tuition at Alamance Community College to obtain an associates degree in mechatronics. The students will even get paid for time spent in class at ACC.
Upon successful completion of the program, the student is guaranteed a job with the company where he/she was an apprentice.
"The businesses saw the need," Bowers said. "They have a work force where they're looking for trained students to come into it. And this is an opportunity for that to happen."
Eastern Alamance junior Jace Walker said he plans to apply for the program because it will help him figure out which field of manufacturing he hopes to enter.
"You can figure out what you're good at," he said. "And learn. You don't have to waste your money on school for something that, in the end, you don't want to do."
"I feel like it's better to make money for four years than to spend it," added Hawkins. "It would help out a lot."
The seven companies participating are Fairystone Fabrics, GKN Driveline, Glen Raven, Nypro, Sandvik, Technical Precision Plastics and Engineered Controls, International.