GREENVILLE – As communities nationwide are working to address labor force dilemmas, such as the silver tsunami, an innovative program in Pitt County is finding unique ways to transform the workforce. Tradesformers, a youth apprenticeship group, is changing the way high school juniors and seniors are exposed to non-traditional careers in trades industries.
“We work to connect talented students to industry trades in our area. This involves on the job training, an hourly base pay, opportunity for experience and career advancement, and industry recognized credentials,” said Simone Pate, who serves as the work-based learning coordinator for Pitt County Schools.
Interested students are eligible to apply for Tradesformers at the beginning of eleventh grade. They’re vetted throughout the year and eventually invited to interview with industry partners of the organization.
“Once they’re matched with a business, they can begin working part-time as youth apprentices during their senior year,” shared Pate. “Some even start the summer before the school year begins because they’re so excited to make money and start their training.”
Tradesformers serves as the liaison between Pitt County Schools, ApprenticeshipNC, and area businesses. After these students graduate from high school, they become apprentices and obtain the certifications needed to continue their careers.
“Tradesformers aligns both with our desire to begin developing pipelines of future employees and with our efforts to diversify our workforce,” said Richie Shreves, director of human resources for Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC).
GUC’s electric department is in its second year with Tradesformers. The utility company says the program has been effective in identifying students who have an interest in becoming lineworkers. These roles are increasingly difficult to fill with qualified candidates.
“Not everyone has a desire to pursue a four-year degree and that is honestly a good thing,” admitted Shreves. “It is important for everyone to recognize the value and importance trades careers play in the continued success of our community and in society as a whole.”
As a result of their partnership with Tradesformers, GUC went on to hire a youth apprentice for full-time work as an electric lineworker third class. This school year, they have two pre-apprentice lineworkers who will learn basic construction principles and safe work habits.
“We are so fortunate to have Tradesformers in our community and in our high schools. It’s a great way to show potential new companies that we have a young, skilled labor force that wants to work and wants to have a career in various trades fields such as construction, manufacturing, and servicing,” said Uconda Dunn, vice president of business development for the Greenville Eastern North Carolina (ENC) Alliance.
In terms of economic development efforts of attracting new business and retaining current, it’s a win-win approach to establishing a skilled workforce.
“The employers win because they’re matched up with eager students who want to work and the students win because they’re given the resources and training that they need to launch their career right out of high school,” said Dunn.
The program is proving successful for companies that need to hire skilled workers as they look to grow or fill roles left vacant by retirees. Pate recommends that other communities consider this type of partnership program if their local industries are struggling to fill positions.
“It fills the gap between those students who do not want to pursue a four-year degree and great skilled trades employers looking to hire life-long employees,” said Pate. “By offering this program to students, it helps them stay on track to graduate high school, gain valuable training, and help to grow the local economy.”
*Greenville Utilities Commission is a funding partner of the Greenville Eastern North Carolina (ENC) Alliance