My Catawba County

The "Other" Four-Year Degree

The "Other" Four-Year Degree

Do you know a high school student who might be interested in getting paid to go to college – with a job already lined up after he or she graduates? Then you know someone who needs to know about Catawba County’s “other” four-year degree: Apprenticeship Catawba. We asked Apprenticeship Coordinator Kimberly Propst to share more about this dynamic program at Catawba Valley Community College.

What is Apprenticeship Catawba?
Apprenticeship Catawba is a 4-year apprenticeship program with a combination of on-the-job learning at an Industry Partner and related instruction at Catawba Valley Community College. Apprentices will either earn a degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technologies or Computer-Integrated Machining as well as a Journeyman’s Certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprentices are interviewed by their Industry Partner after completion of the program and offered a full-time position. Apprentices may either accept or decline the offer.

The amount of time an apprentice stays with a company after completion of the program ranges. We have had some stay 8 years with no plans of leaving, and some have left after anywhere from 1-2 years. It really depends on the apprentice. Apprenticeship Catawba does not have a minimum/maximum number of years that apprentices are required to stay.

What makes the Apprenticeship Catawba model unique?
The Apprenticeship Catawba model is unique in that apprentices are learning while earning. They are also paid for their seat time while at CVCC. Regardless of how much time is spent training at the facility, while they are an apprentice they are paid for a 40-hour week.

Who is eligible to enroll in Apprenticeship Catawba?
Juniors and seniors who are enrolled in high school in Catawba or Alexander County and are at least 16 years of age may apply for Apprenticeship Catawba. Interested students need to also have a minimum unweighted GPA of 2.8.

How are students paired with Industry Partners?
Students will attend Open Houses hosted by all the participating Industry Partners. They then will participate in Orientation Week, which gives the students and Industry Partners a chance to work together. The partners then host a “draft” where students are matched with Industry Partners based on the student’s ranking of the companies.

How does Apprenticeship Catawba benefit the students who participate?
Apprentices benefit from Apprenticeship Catawba by getting a head start on their career. Also, students selected for Apprenticeship Catawba will not have any student debt associated with related instruction through CVCC. All tuition, books and fees are paid for. Most participating companies also offer tuition reimbursement, which may come into play once an apprentice has completed the apprenticeship program and wants to further their education (Bachelors, Masters, etc.) while employed there.

How does the program benefit the employers who participate?
Employers can create a talent pipeline that will provide them with continuous talent. They are also able to train new employees on practices that are currently used at their facilities without having to untrain them on practices learned elsewhere.

What are some of your favorite success stories from Apprenticeship Catawba?
Favorite success stories are those of apprentices that are now supervisors with the company, and their path may not end there. They have so many opportunities for advancement should they choose to pursue those. We have had several apprentices who are now enrolled in college to get their bachelor’s degree in engineering technologies. I have had several apprentices who have graduated the program and have come back to CVCC to assist me with marketing videos, recruitment, tours, etc. I was told when I accepted the position that I would be the “apprenticeship mother” to these students. I didn’t quite understand until after a couple of years of being in this role. I can truly say that I am extremely proud of each apprentice that graduates every year, and I am always grateful when they keep in touch with me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about Apprenticeship Catawba?
Someone mentioned to me that Apprenticeship Catawba is Catawba County’s best-kept secret. It is my goal and our partners’ goal to educate everyone on the benefits of this program and for them to understand that apprenticeship is “the other four-year degree.” The sky is the limit with Apprenticeship Catawba.