Pre-Apprenticeship Partnership Graduates First Class of Students

Students completed courses in a variety of manufacturing areas, including blueprint reading and robotics.

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In West Virginia, young people are getting a head start on manufacturing careers thanks to a partnership between the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) and the Mountaineer Challenge Academy. The first group of Challenge Academy cadets graduated last month from an RCBI pre-apprenticeship program through Apprenticeship Works, the National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Partnership. The pre-apprenticeship introduces disadvantaged youth to good-paying, high-skill jobs available in manufacturing, RCBI says.

RCBI Director Charlotte Weber believes the partnership with the Challenge Academy is an important way to prepare young people for success in today’s rapidly changing and globalized world. “Skills training can enhance young people’s well-being and help them develop into active and productive members of their communities,” he says. “Programs such as ours can create a pipeline of future workers, which boosts the competitiveness of our state’s manufacturers.”

As part of career exploration activities, cadets completed online courses in advanced manufacturing that include Blueprint Reading, Introduction to Robotics, Introduction to Assembly and Pneumatic Components, among others. The hope is that students go on to secure manufacturing jobs or seek out registered apprenticeships in the state.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, RCBI’s Apprenticeship Works was established in 2015 to create apprenticeships nationwide in 17 advanced manufacturing occupations. The Mountaineer Challenge Academy, located in Kingwood, West Virginia, is a 22-week program designed to help teenagers become productive members of their communities. The program is supported by the West Virginia National Guard and the state of West Virginia.