Calhoun’s new apprenticeship program paying dividends for students and industry alike

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - What if you could enroll in college and be guaranteed a part-time job while studying and then full-time work once you graduate? Toyota first came up with the idea but now it has spread to other industries, creating a number of opportunities for people looking for not just a job, but a career.

This is the first group of students to enroll in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Apprentice Program at Calhoun Community College. More than 30 applied, only a dozen made the cut. Instruction is targeted to the exact needs of industry.

"The curriculum is structured in such a way that it tracks right along with the day to day operations that an industrial maintenance technician would encounter," according to Bethany Shockney, Dean of Workforce Development and Technologies Business and CIS at Calhoun Community College.

There are currently four industrial partners in the program right now, including EFI Automotive in Elkmont. We toured that facility Monday with Congressman Mo Brooks and learned Calhoun's AMT program is designed to build successful careers.

"It helps, of course, Calhoun and their students but it also helps EFI have the kind of trained individuals they need in order to compete in a very tough international marketplace," Brooks said.

Participants spend 3 days a week on the job and 2 days each week in class. They're earning a salary as an apprentice while they study. Oneal Watkins worked in production at EFI and says the course has opened new doors for him and his future.

"I got to looking around at the maintenance men and how they fixed stuff, how they looked at stuff and said you know what, this is what i want to do," Watkins said.

Dean Shockney says this year's class is full. Next year they hope to be able to add additional students to the program and more industrial partners who are looking for just the right employee.

We mentioned Toyota at the first of the story. They've initiated this program at schools near six of their other manufacturing sites. It has proved very beneficial for industry and students alike.

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