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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools is starting a new apprenticeship program for those interested in the advanced manufacturing field.

Students will undergo a three to four-year program where they receive an associate’s degree, a journeymen certificate, have their school paid for and then end up with a manufacturing job.

About 50 students, juniors and seniors, applied to the program. There were 27 students selected to start the program, but more cuts will be made during the summer.

The school system is working with six local manufacturing companies: ABCO Automation, Bright Plastics, Precor, Purolator Facet, Machine Specialties, Inc and TE Connectivity.

The 27 students start their paid apprenticeships in June. For six weeks they will work at the participating advanced manufacturing companies. The companies and the school system will then make cuts, narrowing it down to as little as 16 and as many as 20 students.

Those selected to continue through the program will balance school while working at their selected companies. Rising seniors (who applied while juniors), will spend half the day at school and then the other half working at their selected company. When they graduate from high school they will go to school one day a week at GTCC to pursue their associate’s degree in manufacturing technology and then spend four days working at their company.

Participating companies pay students for their work and also pay for their tuition and books while at GTCC.

Donna Newton, director of the Workforce Initiative for the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, was instrumental in helping launch this program with Guilford County Schools. The nonprofit workforce organization is excited to have paired up with the school system to provide students and businesses this opportunity.

“Our mission is to help our community build a pipeline of skilled workers for jobs for today and the future,” Newton said. “We call it an opportunity for students to earn and learn.”

Newton says this experience is valuable.

“What this is, is really a scholarship of $125,000 to $150,000 for each of these students,” Newton said.

Bob Gantt, director of Career and Technical Education for Guilford County Schools, says this program is competitive. Students were required to have a minimum 2.5 GPA, good attendance and coursework related to manufacturing.