GARRETT — With pens in hand, 20 seniors and 20 juniors signed their names onto official documents, becoming the first members of Garrett High School’s welding apprenticeship program, teaming with Northeast Indiana Works and several area employers.
The signing ceremony took place Friday in the Garrett Performing Arts Center.
The school and students are aligned with the U.S. Department of Labor as a registered youth apprenticeship program.
Apprenticeships can last up to three years and is an extension of an existing State Earn and Learn (SEAL) career development welding program at the school.
In the apprenticeship, students will receive at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning and a minimum of 634 hours of related instruction provided by Ivy Tech Community College while enrolled at Garrett High School.
“This is the official day,” explained Chad Sutton, director of the Career Development Program at Garrett High School. “We’re super excited about that. The most important thing is we’re going to celebrate the young men and women who are here.”
Sutton said the program would not be possible without the support of Garrett-Keyser-Butler Superintendent Tonya Weaver, Garrett High School Principal Matt Smith and the GKB school board.
“This is a monumental occasion,” Sutton said. “You guys are making history again.
“This is the first class of the Career Development Program,” he continued. “These guys built that welding facility, and it’s pretty cool to see them come all the way through and finish it up.”
Statewide, there are only a handful of apprenticeship programs in Indiana high schools, and Garrett is the first to incorporate welding.
Edmund C. O’Neal III, of Northeast Indiana Works, praised the students for their perseverance, and their parents for their support.
“Not only is this the first opportunity here at Garrett, it will continue a pipeline of young people who don’t have to say, ‘I’m not working anywhere,’” O’Neal said. “This model will expand, not only across northeast Indiana, but throughout the state as well.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the growth of the program.”
“Everybody’s looking for help, and this is our future right here,” said John M. Delgado, Indiana state director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.
“In the trades right now, nationally and especially in the state of Indiana, they’re paying good money,” he noted. “I’m glad to see what this high school is doing.”
“Opportunities for kids is something that Garrett and the Garrett community is all about,” Weaver said. “It provides a bridge for their future.
“Our focus began with creating economic freedom for our community and our students, and this is one of those bridges to get us there.”
“They’ve done a really great job at developing skill and they’ve uncovered some passion and interest,” she added.
“When you tie in skill, passion and interest, it’s really a win-win for the kids.”
“It really is a groundbreaking day for Garrett to be able to do something that’s not really done commonly around the state of Indiana,” she said. “To have a registered apprenticeship with the Department of Labor is really neat.”
“It’s exciting. It really is,” Sutton said reflecting on the signing day. “I just think the fact that they can get credit for everything they’ve done in school is important.
“I think the employers out there recognize that. Even if they already have their own apprenticeship, they’re willing to let the students transition into theirs and get credit for what they’ve done,” he continued. “It doesn’t get any better than that.
“We’ve had some employers who don’t have a registered training program in place that are seriously looking at this to take it on.”