COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Carter McGee, a junior at Constantine High School, was honored at a ceremony Monday at the St. Joseph County ISD for being one of the first two high school apprentices in the county through the CTE program. Pictured in the front row (left to right) are McGee and Rick Stevens of RS Services Electrical. Pictured in the back row (left to right) are Constantine High School Principal Pat Breen, mom Randi McGee, and CTE instructor DeWaine Harley.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Briley Kelley, a junior at Centreville HS, was honored at a ceremony Monday at the St. Joseph County ISD for being one of the first two high school apprentices in the county through the CTE program. She will be an apprentice with Covered Bridge Healthcare in Centreville. Pictured in the front row (left to right) are Kelley and Liz Shirk from Covered Bridge Healthcare. Pictured in the back row from left to right are dad Jason Kelley, mom Carma Kelley, and Darci Skrzyniarz

CTE program honors first two high school apprenticeships

CENTREVILLE — This week, Nov. 15-21, is known as National Apprenticeship Week, a celebration of the role registered apprenticeships play in supporting employers who need skilled talent and workers who gain skills toward in-demand careers.

In 2020, according to a release from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan had nearly 20,000 active apprenticeships in more than 1,000 registered programs.

In St. Joseph County, two more apprentices joined those ranks Monday. However, these two were special, being the first two high school apprenticeships in the county thanks to a new state apprenticeship expansion grant.

Constantine High School junior Carter McGee and Centreville High School junior Briley Kelley were honored Monday in a ceremony at the St. Joseph County ISD Board of Education meeting for being the first two high schoolers in the St. Joseph County Career and Technical Education program to get apprenticeships under the new grant program.

“Previously, you needed to be over 18 years old and needed to have a high school diploma to start your apprenticeship. That’s not the way it is anymore; you can actually start an apprenticeship once you’re in high school,” CTE Director Tommy Cameron said. “We’re going to be one of the leaders in that.”

High schoolers became eligible for apprenticeship programs thanks to a bill passed earlier this year in the state that allows federal funding to be spent on more apprenticeship programs, which also made apprenticeship programs more readily available for high school students. Cameron said the CTE program would sponsor the apprenticeships as well, which he said would “take the burden off” of employers.

McGee, the first high school apprentice under the program, will be an apprentice in the electrical field with RS Services Electrical in Three Rivers, owned by Rick Stevens. CTE Career Coordinator Sarah Beckle said he will be completing 8,000 hours of on-the-job training in the apprenticeship, so he won’t finish it completely during his high school career, but what he’ll do in high school will count and “give him a head start,” according to Beckle.

“Carter was my guinea pig. I’ve known Carter for a long time, and so I asked him if I could apprentice him. He let me use him, with the help of his contractor to do the paperwork, so he was my first one,” Beckle said.

McGee, who is in his first year in the CTE program, said it was “pretty cool” to be the first high school apprentice in the county under the new program.

“I’m excited to work with Rick and to learn a lot of new things,” McGee said. “I think I’m ready for it.”

McGee said he helped out with a lot of house projects growing up, which led him to want to go into the electrical field.

“I started doing house projects, like wiring with my lights, doing electrical work in my garage, stuff around the house. I even did a few things at my grandpa’s house that my dad taught me,” McGee said. “That’s what sparked it, and ever since then, I felt an interest in it.”

McGee is currently enrolled in the Early Middle College program at Constantine High School, and plans to graduate with his associate’s degree in electrical science from Glen Oaks in a few years.

Kelley will be an apprentice with Covered Bridge Healthcare in Centreville, and is planning on enrolling in a licensed practical nursing program or registered nurse program in college. Beckle said her apprenticeship will be “competency-based,” so that by the time she graduates from Centreville she will have a Department of Labor certificate for medical assisting, thanks to the apprenticeship.

“Last year, when we interviewed all our first-year applications for health sciences, I met a girl at Centreville, and I said, ‘that’s my MA (medical assistant),’” Beckle said.

Kelley said it was “incredible” to be one of the first two high school apprentices in the county.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” Kelley said. “I come from a family of nurses, and my goal for the future is to work as a nurse and hopefully in OB or NICU.”

She said she wanted to go into nursing because she likes helping people.

“There’s no greater joy than being able to help, especially when it comes to babies and things like that,” Kelley said. “Plus, there’s always going to be a need for healthcare workers.”

She said she hopes the experience will teach her a lot before she officially goes into the nursing program.

“It’ll be kind of cool to work in a healthcare facility before actually entering into one full time. It’ll be a cool idea to be part of that kind of team structure and see how it’s done,” Kelley said.

Liz Shirk from Covered Bridge Healthcare said the federally-qualified health center is “extremely lucky” to have Kelley as an apprentice.

“It is so hard to find healthcare workers as is now, that just opening up that door to somebody that’s just stepping into it and being able to mold her in the way we know, it’s a phenomenal experience,” Shirk said.

ISD Superintendent Teresa Belote congratulated the new apprentices, saying the occasion was a “big deal” for the program.

“I’m really proud of you and the work and efforts that you guys have proven yourselves to be those first apprentices,” Belote said. “I’m truly excited.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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