Trident Technical College now is accepting applications for the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program. Melissa Stowasser, dean of TTC’s School and Community Initiatives Programs, said the four-year-old program that serves high school juniors, seniors and graduating seniors, is changing the way education looks in our region.
The program has grown exponentially, she says. In 2014 it began with 13 apprentices. In 2016-17, it’s got 76 apprentices. About 157 positions will be available in the upcoming year. Some 90 positions have been filled, but recruiting will continue until all the positions are filled, she said. About 45 percent of participants are African American.
Started in 2013 when a German manufacturing company approached TTC officials with an idea to train a workforce. The collaborative partnership has expanded to include 122 industrial partners, representing 16 occupations ranging from information technology to culinary arts in addition to the four regional school districts. The word’s gotten out and both the industrial and educational communities are embracing it, Stowwasser said.
It’s not hard to understand why. The program’s industrial partners realize the advantage of training their workforce. The two-year duration of the training program develops skilled workers who gain experience on the job before they are hired permanently. Participants get the opportunity to learn skills, earn wages and ultimately a certificate that can be applied toward an associate degree at Trident Tech.
Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce also recognizes its value. All tuition and costs for the apprenticeship-related college courses at TTC are paid for by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, making the program free to students hired as youth apprentices. There is one area that presents a barrier for some participants, however – transportation.
Participants must provide their own transportation. Efforts are made to accommodate students – some courses can be taken online and employers take into consideration the students’ proximity to home, work and school. But ultimately transportation is a personal responsibility. Stowasser says the partners are exploring resources to overcome that barrier.
The program’s overall success has spawned an adult counterpart – The Charleston Regional Adult Apprenticeship Program that starts this year. Information about both programs are available at TTC’s website or by calling either Ellen Kaufman for the youth apprenticeship program or Mitchell Harp for the adult program.