ELDON, Mo. — Four students from Eldon enrolled Monday into the Missouri Registered Apprenticeship Program as part of a partnership to create a more skilled workforce.
"The apprenticeship program is an essential solution to help close the skills gap by providing skilled workers through our career centers," MORAP grant coordinator Cynthia Walker said Monday. "Their collaborative effort in determining industry needs, applicable skills and related in-classroom instruction has laid a firm foundation for this initiative."
The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship program operates in conjunction with the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Education for academic and technical experiences. The grant was written to cover eight apprentices and provide them with the tools, clothes and other needs to get the job.
The focus of the partnership between Eldon Career Center and Lake Career & Technical Center are on youth apprentices; it's aimed at students ages 16 and older who may not go to college. The Lake Center also works with adults as apprentices.
"These are kids who may not have the aspirations of going to a four-year college, but they really enjoy automotive technology," Walker said.
Eldon High School juniors Lucas Martin and Braeden George-Weeces and seniors Rylee Robison and Isaiah Parsons all accepted positions with area employers.
"It feels good to actually be able to have a job in a shop," George-Weeces said. "Not many shops will hire kids who are under the age of 18. So for me to be 16 and getting a job in a shop is pretty good."
He is the first automotive technician apprentice hired by Lloyd Belt Automotive in Eldon.
The other three apprentices signed with Eldon School District, SPI Enterprise and Smith Truss Systems. Several companies have contracted to have work with the career center for more apprentices in the future.
The two-year apprentice program trains youth in a hands-on environment in automotive technician, computer technology, advanced manufacturing and construction trades. Students must have a 2.5 grade-point average, 92 percent attendance and be in good standing with the school.
The goal of the courses is to get the students ready to work. After 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and courses with the career centers, students are certified in each area. Although contracted companies are not required to hire students, their investment is in finding skilled workers to fill jobs.
Unlike an internship, apprentices sign on with job security. Contracts identify what wages the students will earn, when they will see an increase and if insurance will be provided.
"What makes it different is once they hire this student there's a sense of loyalty," Walker said. "It's been shown nationally that whenever these students can commit and then work with these employers they become long-term employees."
Instructors mentioned the students who were hired stood out in the classroom and showed high interest in the careers. Automotive technology instructor Paul Fleming said he enjoys being able to witness this become a reality for students.
"This is that opportunity for you to really see it and get the sense of satisfaction of knowing that all the work that you put in and all the work that they put in paid off," Fleming said.
Correction: The Lake Career & Technical Center coordinates apprenticeships for adults and youth. The original version of this story misstated that information.