(WGHP) — More than $11 million in funding will help grow apprenticeship programs at Triad technical and community colleges.  

The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges approved investing the state funds which will serve students ages 16 to 25. 

Businesses with less than 500 employees can bring on new apprentices in high-demand trades or careers. Employers will get up to $2,000 per apprentice for onboarding and training, plus a 50% salary reimbursement on wages up to $15 per hour for non-high school students and $14 per hour for high school students, according to a release from NC Community Colleges. 

Colleges will also receive up to $2,500 per apprentice for tuition, books, fees and supplies. 

“I need people. I need qualified applicants who know how to work on vehicles. That is very hard to find,” said Mark Stamper, parts and service director for Smart Chevrolet in Madison. 

He’s hopeful Forsyth Technical Community College can help supply applicants, and explained new funding will help cover onboarding costs for apprentices. 

“You’ve got background investigations. There’s drug tests that have to be performed,” Stamper said. 

Apprentices are paid for their time working. They also take free college courses. 

“It’s a way for students and employers to connect before that student graduates, and we also know that students that have experience in the workplace are much more likely to get hired and many of them stay on. It’s almost like a try-before-you-buy experience in the apprenticeship world,” said Associate Vice President of Business Partnerships Jennifer Coulombe. 

“Just in three short years, we’ve already grown to more than 57 apprentices, over 25 employer partners, across 10 different industries,” added FTCC’s Director of Experiential Learning Danielle Rose. 

Guilford Technical Community College’s Guilford Apprentice Partners Program has about 135 students getting on-the-job training in fields like advanced manufacturing, air conditioning, heating and refrigeration.

“There’s really no limit to what you can do with an apprenticeship. If you have a company and you want to hire a person and bring them in, teach them the trade so to speak, then you need to talk to us,” said GTCC President Dr. Anthony Clarke.  

College leaders are already in conversation with companies like Boom Supersonic and Toyota to help build the workforce they need. The grant helps meet other needs in the community.  

“These funds are for companies that have 500 employees or below, so it’s really more for the companies that are here or for an entrepreneur who wants to start up. I will say, once Toyota and Boom get here or our current companies here, when you think about the suppliers, and those tend to be smaller companies and this will help those companies,” said Dr. Clarke.