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Georgia’s Students Want German-style Apprenticeships. We Need Georgia’s Manufacturers To Want Them, Too.

Georgia is beyond the point of merely dipping its toe into the German-style apprenticeship waters. It wants to cannonball into the pool, but that’s going to take time—and willing partners.  

We’ve talked about German-style apprenticeship programs before, but I came across an NPR story on the subject and wanted to do an update as the fine folks at NPR had some bold quotes from Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on the matter.

From the NPR story:

Lt. Gov. Cagle said he expects the number of high school students in the Georgia CATT program will double in 2018 and the state of Georgia aims to offer this kind of opportunity to every high school student by 2020. “I have set a bold goal so that by 2020 every student in Georgia will have access to a College and Career Academy,” Cagle said. “Within the next few years, all of our high school students will have the opportunity to become a GA CATT apprentice.”

What is a German-style apprenticeship? It’s at least a three-year program beginning when the apprentice is still in high school. Here’s how it works:

The apprentice takes classes at a traditional high school, a local technical college, and he or she also works with a manufacturer—earning real money—with the goal of graduating high school with an associates degree and walking into a full-time position with the company they worked for during the apprenticeship.

It’s not for the faint of heart, as Northgate High School student Cole McKeehan told NRP. 

McKeehan splits his time between his studies at his high school, classes at the technical college and work experience shaping metal at E.G.O., where he makes $10 an hour. He said he still hangs out with his high school friends, but has an awareness of real-world responsibilities.

"I've been raised to know that I will one day have to work to live and I'm going to have to grow up quicker,” he said. “I see it as two steps early and getting out there, getting it done."
Six Newton County School System (NCSS) sophomores are the first school district students to enroll in the new Industrial Mechanic apprenticeship program, modeled after the highly successful program in Germany

America is losing thousands of manufacturing workers due to aging out via retirement, but we’re not filling the roles at the same pace as we’re losing them. That’s where these programs come into play.

The goal is to develop a skilled workforce pipeline to seamlessly transition the old workforce with the new one.

The one hang up? The state needs more manufacturers to sign up to act as apprentices. According to NPR, there are only 20 manufacturers in the entire state participating in the apprenticeship program.

Hundreds of students have applied for the programs, yet only 26 are active as the demand from the students isn’t being met from the businesses that will most need their services sooner rather than later. 

Parrish Walton

Parrish Walton is a communications specialist with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). He is the primary author of the Georgia@Work blog, which aims to educate Georgia citizens on all of the great things done by the Workforce Division within GDEcD. Parrish is a proud product of the public school system of... more