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Students explore manufacturing apprenticeships
Four area plants partnering with schools
Dennis Bustillo LCCA student  Chris Bohlmann VP Firth Rixson
Liberty College and Career Academy student Dennis Bustillo talks with Firth Rixson Vice President Chris Bohlmann during Mondays Liberty County Manufacturing Collaboration briefing at the LCCA. - photo by Photo by Randy C. Murray

The Liberty County Manufacturing Collaboration is partnering with Savannah Technical College and the Liberty College and Career Academy to sponsor a two-year, paid apprenticeship program that begins in August.
Students interested in learning more about the program attended a briefing Monday by LCMC representatives at LCCA from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. LCCA CEO Tom Alexander said the apprenticeship program targets high-school seniors and Savannah Technical College students in Liberty County.
He said the eight students selected for the program will gain on-the-job experience by working 20 hours a week. They will rotate every three months among the four manufacturers making up the LCMC — Elan Technology, Firth Rixson Forgings, Interstate Resources and SNF Holding Company.
The program also puts participants on a path to complete an associate’s degree in applied science in manufacturing technology, he said. Moreover, while they’re in the apprenticeship program, apprentices will be paid about $10 an hour.
After allowing the students 90 minutes to meet with the industry representatives, Alexander explained packets of paperwork on the tables in front of them.
“This event culminates about a year and a half of planning,” Alexander said, explaining the opportunities the apprenticeship program offers high-school seniors. “What you have in front of you includes an overview of the Liberty County Manufacturing Collaboration. You also have an application to Savannah Tech.”
He said the application process begins with a six-week program that leads to becoming a certified manufacturing specialist. He advised students to fill out the application completely, especially the question that asks them to explain in their own words why they’re interested in the program.
He said their responses to that question will be used at the end of the CMS program when students are interviewed for the eight apprenticeship positions. He added that those students who are not selected as apprentices still will have the CMS certificate and a good start toward an AAS in manufacturing technology.
Dennis Creekmore, human-resource director for Firth Rixson Forgings, gave students a little more background about how and why the program was started.
“Last year, (local industries) got together to discuss common (workforce) challenges,” Creekmore said. “One common concern was a shortage of qualified talent for the local workforce. So, we got together and formed the LCMC with the LCCA and Savannah Tech as partners. One of the initiatives we came up with is an apprenticeship program.”
He said one benefit of the apprenticeship program would be getting young people oriented toward job skills that another generation took for granted, like coming to work on time and prepared to work. Then, referring to bullet-point comments on a PowerPoint presentation, Creekmore said students who participate in the apprenticeship program will:
• explore various manufacturing career paths through experiential learning
• gain marketable skills
• experience state-of-the-art technology while interning on a rotation with four companies
• earn academic credit toward an AAS in manufacturing technology
Creekmore told students that an apprenticeship is both a job and a school, but most of all, it’s an opportunity to prepare for a highly skilled career. He said an apprentice will learn a valuable skill through training from people who are experts in that field.
Savannah Technical College representatives told students the program does not qualify for the federal Pell Grant program but does qualify for Georgia’s HOPE Grant Program. To meet the minimum qualifications to apply for the apprenticeship program, a student must be 18 years old; must pass the COMPASS test; must pass a physical, drug screening and background check; and must be enrolled in the manufacturing-technology program at Savannah Tech. He or she also must meet all work assignments at the company and comply with all company policies and procedures.
After the briefings, while other students enjoyed a barbecue lunch, LCCA senior Dennis Bustillo talked with Firth Rixson Vice President Chris Bohlmann about his company and working in manufacturing. Bustillo said he is interested in the apprenticeship program because it would give him a head start toward his career goal of working in manufacturing.

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