They sat at 11 tables next to one or both parents, not old enough to move out of the house for college but old enough to be planning for a future career.
Prospective participants perused booths at Central Carolina Technical College on Thursday …
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Who can become a youth apprentice?
* Rising public or private high school seniors in Sumter, Lee, Kershaw or Clarendon counties
* Students 16 years or older
* "College-ready" students or those who meet Next Generation ACCUPLACER test score requirements
* Applicants who have completed an application packet and completed a free Career Readiness Training Program through CCTC
Interested in applying?
Students did not have to attend the information night to apply. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2GmzNas or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prospective participants perused booths at Central Carolina Technical College on Thursday evening during an informational night meant to teach both high school students and their parents more about the college's youth apprenticeship program.
For CCTC officials, it's a way to enroll students early, taking college courses while still finishing their last year of high school. For rising seniors, it's a way to gain hands-on, real-world experience while both earning college credit and getting paid. For employers, it's a way to get young future employees in the door and continue to develop their workforce pipeline, hoping to fill gaps in open positions and available qualified applicants for high-tech, high-paying jobs in Sumter.
It's what Ken Lee, plant manager at BD in Sumter, says is a win for everyone.
"The more of us taking four, five of them a year, the better for them and us and our community," said Lee, who leads one of Sumter's largest industrial plants that is in the process of expanding and looking for people to fill positions.
BD and SKF, which used to be called Kaydon, were the only two participants in last year's pilot program. This year, companies looking to take on high school seniors for what turns out to be a year-long interview has expanded to Carolina Filters Inc., the S.C. Department of Mental Health, Hatfield Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. and McLeod Health.
Youth apprentices can explore occupations in fields such as mechatronics, machine tool technology, environmental, health and safety, certified nursing, wastewater operation, engineering design, HVAC and logistics.
Elizabeth Williams, dean of workforce development and SCETC at CCTC, estimated more than 50 teenagers stopped by the informational night Thursday to talk to the six employers, with some staying for an orientation about the "learn and earn" opportunity.
It is free to participate in the program, including tuition fees and books, though certain apprenticeships may require students to purchase safety gear, and reliable transportation is required. After the program is over, Williams said, apprentices will have learned real-life skills in an actual workplace setting. As Lee hinted, they may even get hired after.
Among the group that stayed for orientation Thursday were two friends from Lugoff-Elgin High School in Kershaw County. Neither was certain which company they want to apprentice at, but they both said they intend to apply.
Giordan Whitsett said he is interested in IT and cybersecurity, and Nicholas Stuhn said he wants to pursue business management.
"It energized my kid. And that it's a free program where he can get credit in something he wants to do," said Stuhn's mother, Michelle.
Erin Summerville, Whitsett's mother, said she appreciated the choice it gives young people.
"When I was coming up, we didn't have anything like this. It had to be a four-year school," she said. "Now, there are so many more things they can do."
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