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New engineering youth apprenticeships could be national model

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An engineering youth apprenticeships pilot program launched today in the Lowcountry could be a model for the rest of the country, U.S. Department of Labor officials say.

The apprenticeships are a collaboration among the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program, the Labor Department and Project Lead the Way Inc., an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that provides science, technology, engineering and math curricula to schools.

Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead the Way Inc., speaks at the launch of the engineering youth apprenticeship pilot program at Trident Technical College. The program is a collaboration among the existing Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeship Program, the U.S. Department of Labor and Project Lead the Way. (Photo/Patrick Hoff)“We are so thrilled to be part of this national project with Project Lead the Way and the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Mary Thornley, president of Trident Technical College, one of the Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeships partners.

Project Lead the Way has curricula in several schools in the tri-county region, and the new partnership allows high school students who are taking engineering courses in ninth and 10th grades to apply for youth apprenticeships with Boeing, Bosch, Thomas and Hutton, Mobile Communications and Charleston County.

Melissa Stowasser, dean of school and community initiatives at Trident Tech, said companies will begin hiring youth apprentices in the spring and the apprenticeships will start next fall.

“Efforts here in Charleston, along with the support from local businesses, the (Charleston Metro) Chamber of Commerce and great implementations of PLTW in local schools make this the perfect location to begin this collaborative work,” said Glade Montgomery, senior vice president of partnerships at Project Lead the Way.

Montgomery said the program will partner the Project Lead the Way curriculum with on-the-job training for students, providing a pathway for students into the workforce.

Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead the Way, said the partnership is in line with the nonprofit’s goals of creating an engaging student experience and showing students how their schoolwork can be applied to real-life work.

“The way we close the (employment) gaps is helping children develop skills, and then all of a sudden they have control of their future,” he said. “This apprenticeship program, and its connections, we believe is a model of excellence that we can share across this nation.”

The program announcement coincided with the Department of Labor’s National Apprenticeship Week.

“We’re excited about this pilot,” said Daniel Villao, deputy administrator for the Labor Department’s Office of Apprenticeship. “We’re really utilizing this as a potential platform to demonstrate around the country what can be done.”

Villao said that America’s workforce needs to be able to compete in a global economy and that apprenticeships are a valuable training tool for skilled workers.

Thornley said of all the initiatives she’s seen as president of Trident Tech, the youth apprenticeship program is the most exciting because of its power to change lives, accelerate the region’s economy and build the community. The program is a partnership among Trident Tech, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, local school districts and regional employers.

“This is the best example of the change, the genuine change, that occurs when multiple organizations work completely together to move in a single direction,” she said.

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