Pisgah seniors sign for the future

Four Pisgah High School seniors signed letters Friday, February 3 to pursue machining apprenticeships with GE Aviation in Asheville and Baldor Electric Company in Weaverville.

Riley Haney, Cody West, and Riley Marcus started their apprenticeships with GE Aviation in January. Riley James will begin his apprenticeship with Baldor this month.

The apprenticeship signing was the first event of its kind at Pisgah. Friends, family, school board members, county commissioners, and central office employees packed the Pisgah library to show their support for the students.

“We wanted to hold a signing day similar to that of athletes because these students have worked just as hard as anyone else,” Pisgah machining teacher Chip Singleton said. “Most of these guys have had their eyes on this apprenticeship program since they were freshmen.”

Since 2005, the machining program at Pisgah has partnered with local businesses to place seniors in apprenticeships. Singleton has worked to increase the rigor of his classroom curriculum and to teach skills needed in today’s precision machining industry.

“The CTE (Career and Technical Education) Program is growing in Haywood County,” Singleton explained. “Our students, as well as the community, are seeing the value in career/technical training.”

Apprenticeships integrate school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in employability and occupational skills, such as machining, needed by local industries. The Pisgah seniors attend classes in the morning to meet high school graduation requirements and then work at their apprenticeship from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“Baldor employs a lot of successful Haywood County Schools graduates who have received top-notch training from the machining programs here,” Ryan Walters, Baldor training supervisor, said. “This is the first year of our apprenticeship program, and we’re happy to have Riley join our team.”

Baldor is an international supplier of industrial electric motors, mechanical power transmission products, drives, and generators.

Riley James, like several of the other apprentices, has been enrolled in machining classes at Pisgah since he was a freshman.

“My favorite thing I’ve made in class was a chess board and pieces for the Chess Club here at school,” James said. “I’m really grateful for this apprenticeship program because I know I have a great job with Baldor, and I don’t have to worry so much about what the future holds.”

Many manufacturing companies in the surrounding areas are faced with the difficult task of hiring highly-skilled workers to build in-demand products. The machining program at Pisgah is working to build a pipeline of qualified and dedicated young workers who are excited about manufacturing and eager to launch a successful career.

GE Aviation currently has 15 students from across Western North Carolina completing apprenticeships at its two Asheville locations. The plant the Pisgah students are working at makes component parts for helicopters and jet engines.

“Pisgah is providing a great resource of qualified students who already possess the needed skills to be successful,” Sarah Dunn, GE Aviation senior employee HR manager, said. “We’re a growing company, and we’re always looking to hire qualified candidates.”

At the end of the school year, the Pisgah seniors will begin working full-time. All the students said they plan to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs at each company by completing coursework to receive their associate degree in Computer-Integrated Machining from Haywood Community College or AB-Tech Community College.