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ACC Student Apprentices Making Big Strides at Local Companies

Trevor Coffey, CAP apprentice, working on-site at Sandvik Coromant in Mebane.Trevor Coffey, CAP apprentice, working on-site at Sandvik Coromant in Mebane.

Justin Padmos is an apprentice at Fairystone Fabrics in Burlington.Justin Padmos is an apprentice at Fairystone Fabrics in Burlington.

Two Alamance Community College students are the first of eight apprentices in the Career Accelerator Program (CAP) to complete requirements for the Mechatronics Engineering Technology Basic Certificate.

Justin Padmos, a graduate of the ABSS Middle College, and Trevor Coffey, a graduate of Eastern Alamance High School, are the first of the apprentices to move forward toward a credential in the program overseen by NC Works.

The Career Accelerator Program (CAP) is a partnership of the College and ABSS, the Alamance Chamber, and seven local manufacturing-based companies. The apprenticeship provides the students the opportunity to earn while they learn and the companies benefit by training and developing an employee to meet specific needs of their workforce. Tuition and books at ACC are paid for by the company. At the end of the program, an apprentice will have an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology; a Journeyman Certificate from the N.C. Department of Commerce; 6,400 hours of on-the-job training; a guaranteed job with the company; and no school debt.

Apprentices Padmos and Coffey each work about 20 hours a week at their respective manufacturing plants – Padmos at Fairystone Fabrics and Coffey at Sandvik Coromant – and spend 20 hours at the college in academic studies.

“The apprenticeship program was created to ensure the future of manufacturing in Alamance County and for companies like Sandvik Coromant to continue to prosper and prepare for the future. With this program we will continue to find apprentices who are ambitious and eager to learn, and build upon the advances in manufacturing,” said Tab Joyce, Business Controller at Sandvik Coromant.

ACC’s Mechatronics Engineering Technology program—the college’s first new curriculum program in 16 years when it started in the fall 2016 semester—covers a broad career field in which mechanical, computer engineering, and robotics intersect. It concentrates more on the systems of machines and requires greater skills in areas such as math and physics. It allows more focus on students interacting with a control device and the actual mechanical devices.

When he heard about ACC’s Mechatronics and apprenticeship program, Justin Padmos of Graham jumped at the opportunity. “My schooling is paid for, I’m given a job which can be turned into a career, and I get paid to be in school as well as at work,” he said.

Trevor Coffey of Mebane followed a similar pathway to the apprenticeship program. His father has worked as a machinist for more than 20 years and Trevor wanted to follow in a similar, hands-on career.

The Career Accelerator Program is just one facet to bring more high school students into the mechatronics career field through an education at Alamance Community College. A recently announced $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to initiate a MechTech Institute is projected to fund mechatronics and technical education in area high schools.

High school students who participate in ACC’s new TechHire program receive upfront individualized assessment, placement in mechatronics or a related career pathway to earn a degree or certificate, intensive coaching, support services, partially paid tuition and expenses based on financial need, work-based experiences, support services, and job placement assistance.

TechHire was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration through a multi-million-dollar award that provided $4 million to a consortium of four North Carolina community colleges that includes Alamance Community College. ACC will receive approximately $200,000 annually from the current academic year through June 2020.

But non-traditional adult students are encouraged to enroll in ACC’s Mechatronics Engineering Technology program just as much as high school students. In fact, adult students can qualify for financial aid specific to this program through a $1 million federal grant awarded last year. The aid provides wrap-around support for 25 students each year over a four-year period enrolled in Mechatronics Engineering Technology.

“This is a direct reflection of the College’s ongoing commitment to addressing a skills gap in our own community and building a workforce that can thrive in a very competitive 21st century global economy,” said ACC President Dr. Algie Gatewood.

Chamber Invites More Businesses to Participate

New businesses are encouraged to join the Career Accelerator Program partnership. “The ability to place more students at more companies, and to have full classes in the ACC Mechatronics program is beneficial to all involved,” says Andrea Fleming, the Chamber’s Director of Existing Industry Services. Companies may join at any time and the Chamber will meet with companies individually, invite them to planning meetings, and invite them to observe at upcoming Orientation (as space allows). Interested? Contact Andrea Fleming at andrea@alamancechamber.com or 336-228-1338 for more information.