By Debbie Adams
The Student Registered Apprenticeship program is a regional program and joint partnership involving three public school systems – Roanoke County, Salem, and Roanoke City. Students are hired by participating businesses and work part-time to earn industry-recognized credentials and learn specific workplace skills.
Dozens of new student registered apprentices, including eight from William Byrd High School, officially signed with their partner businesses at a special event on May 5 at the Haley Toyota Field in Salem prior to the Salem Red Sox game.
The Student Apprenticeship Program is managed by the Department of Labor and Industry in Virginia and offers a work-based learning experience for 16- to 18-year-old students. They are actually employed by their partner business.
Through the apprenticeship program, students can learn many skills all while earning a paycheck, high school credit, and an industry credential that means they could go straight into the workforce after high school graduation. For students, apprenticeships can lead to careers. For employers, apprenticeships can help companies train future workers and fill open jobs.
In signing the partnership agreement, students make a commitment to maintaining good grades in school and working part-time at the business under specific Virginia Department of Labor and Industry regulated conditions toward becoming a highly trained and credentialed employee of the business.
The process of being selected for the apprenticeship program includes students being screened by school system officials to ensure graduation requirements can be met and an interview with the business.
According to a press release from Roanoke County Schools, “The Student Registered Apprenticeship program began in the Roanoke Valley in 2017 with a pilot program by Roanoke County Public Schools, the Va. Department of Labor and Industry, and the Western Virginia Water Authority. Salem City Public Schools and Roanoke City Public Schools joined the regional program a few years later. Currently, more than two dozen businesses have hosted student apprenticeships, and many students have been hired by their partner business to work full-time after graduation.”
Students and representatives from their partner companies for the 2023-2024 school year were introduced to the crowd by Chuck Lionberger, Roanoke County Schools Director of Community Relations.
William Byrd High School students signing on May 5 included Braedon Scruggs, Thomas Wood, Daemeon Lowe, Hayden Hamblin’Lish, Aaron Glass, Benjamin Sink, Adam Harris, and Christian Lovern.
Braedon Scruggs, a junior at both WBHS and BCAT, will be working for G.J. Hopkins, Inc. as an electrical apprentice. He chose the apprenticeship program because he wanted to get further into the electrical field and sees it as a possible career choice.
Thomas Wood will also be working for G.J. Hopkins. He is also a junior and will be an apprentice working in sheet metal. He credits John Richardson, his teacher at WBHS, with getting him interested in the apprenticeship program.
Daemeon Lowe, a junior at both WBHS and BCAT, will be an apprentice with Integer, training as a machinist. He became interested in the apprenticeship program through his mechatronics studies at BCAT.
Hayden Hamblin’Lish, a student at both WBHS and BCAT, will be an apprentice with Lawrence Companies. He is completing his sophomore year. He will be working as an auto body apprentice. He chose the apprenticeship program because he considers it to be a “good learning experience and a good first job.”
Aaron Glass, a junior at both WBHS and BCAT, will be an apprentice with Lawrence Companies in heavy construction/diesel mechanics. He became interested in the apprenticeship program through his experiences at BCAT. He wanted to challenge himself and get started on a career and building his “401K” at an early age.
Benjamin Sink will work for Southern Air. He is finishing his junior year at WBHS. He will be working as an electrician during his apprenticeship program. He chose the program because he enjoys hands-on learning. He knows some people in the electrical trade and settled on that in selecting a partner business.
Adam Harris, a student at both WBHS and BCAT, will be an apprentice with Wabtec/Graham White. He is completing his junior year in high school and studied masonry at BCAT. His plans are working as a machinist because it “sparked my interest.”
Christian Lovern will be working as an apprentice with the Western Virginia Water Authority. He is completing his junior year and signed up because of the opportunities the apprenticeship program offers. He is unsure of his exact position with the WVWA but hopes to be working in several different areas.
Businesses involved with the apprenticeship program include First United Methodist Church in Salem, G&H Contracting, G.J. Hopkins, Inc., Henritze Dental, Hotel Roanoke, Integer, Lawrence Companies, Medeco, Mersen, Optical Cable Corporation, the Salem City Street Dept., Southern Air, Varney, Inc., WABTEC/Graham White, and the WVWA.