A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Tracking Success: Nationally recognized youth apprenticeship program serves as model for state

By Claire A. Johnson
KyForward intern

A recent Russell County teen finished high school this spring having completed more than 1,700 hours in his apprenticeship.

Garrett Foley is an apprentice for Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems in Russell Springs, a nationally recognized youth apprenticeship program that may serve as a model for apprenticeship expansion in Kentucky.

“Though an apprentice like Garrett has just graduated from high school, he has already received the kind of in-house instruction needed to be a key component of our industrial maintenance shop,” Torsten Langguth, plant manager for the company, said in a news release. “As our business continues to expand, youth apprentices will play a huge role in the future direction of our company.”

(L-R): Sec. Hal Heiner, Torsten Langguth, Garrett Foley, Randa Ballenger, Tyler Moore, Dylan Bryant, Sec. Derrick Ramsey (Photo Provided)

(L-R): Sec. Hal Heiner, Torsten Langguth, Garrett Foley, Randa Ballenger, Tyler Moore, Dylan Bryant, Sec. Derrick Ramsey (Photo Provided)

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey said seeing the success of the apprenticeship program gives him hope other business leaders will see the importance in molding local talent. The apprenticeship is one of many under Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky, or TRACK.

The main mission of the program “is to provide a career pathway to a registered apprenticeship for career and technical education students who are beginning their junior year of high school,” according to a Labor Cabinet news release.

Jarrad Hensley, communications director for the cabinet, said youth apprenticeships prove beneficial to the key challenges Kentucky’s job pool faces: an aging work force and a shortage of trade skills.

Youth apprenticeships offer the opportunity for companies to pass along the trade skills needed to work for them. Students develop specific skill sets at a young age and are able to master the craft through their apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships also provide alternatives to college for Kentucky’s young people.

The Labor Cabinet and the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet developed the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky in 2013. The program is operating in every county across the state.

According to Ramsey, apprenticeship programs are a top priority for the cabinet.

Another partnering business is Voestalpine Roll Forming Corporation in Shelbyville.

The company has partnered with the cabinet for several years and has produced nine graduates, including one who is now positioned as a process engineering team leader when he completes his apprenticeship. Four more apprentices are currently enrolled.

These apprenticeships not only set up opportunities for young people but also give businesses the opportunity to use a “grow your own” model. “There have been a number of employers that see this as an opportunity to cultivate their own talent,” Hensley said.

A match of skill sets that can be found through employment will also lead to economic development for the state.

“For Kentucky to continue to prosper … utilizing the opportunities that youth apprenticeships provide will be essential,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey and Gov. Matt Bevin both support the Fostering Success Program initiated in May, which helps young adults transitioning out of the foster system to find employment opportunities and leadership skills.

According to a news release from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, more than 100 young adults are expected to participate in the program. The program is a 10-week summer program that officially began on June 1.

Foley, the Russell County High School graduate, called his choice to apply for the apprenticeship a “golden opportunity.”

“When I complete my apprenticeship next summer, I will officially be a certified industrial maintenance specialist and will know that it has been worth every ounce of sweat,” Foley said.

Claire Johnson is a journalism senior at the University of Kentucky. She is from Paintsville.

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