Situated in front of a computer screen in the offices of eSolutions, Nicholas Smith was tweaking a program that will allow Housing and Urban Development affiliates to create their own Web pages.
Nicholas, a senior at Greenbrier High School, is jump-starting his career in computer science through the CSRA Regional Service Agency's Youth Apprenticeship Program.
''I like it,'' he said. ''Not only do I get out of school early, but this is the kind of work I'm interested in. It's better than bagging groceries. And this is going to be my career,'' said Nicholas, who plans to major in computer science at the University of Georgia or Georgia Technical Institute.
The Regional Service Agency coordinates the program for the four high schools in Columbia County and schools in Glascock, Warren, Jenkins and Lincoln counties. The state-funded program serves more than 140 school systems through the 14 Regional Service Agencies throughout the state.
Columbia County has 10 juniors and seniors in the school-to-work program in fields that include administrative services, automotive technology, manufacturing, electrical, computer technology, culinary arts, turf management and in medical-related fields. This is the third year for the program in Columbia County.
''Not only is it good for the students, but it's also good for businesses,'' said Reese Riba, director of eSolutions, a division of Drayton, Drayton & Lamar.
''Richmond and Columbia County need a resource pool that is properly trained, and this is the only way to get it. It's not going to happen in a classroom.''
Students must have 144 hours of related instruction before they can be placed in a job, and they must continue to take related electives as long as they are in the program.
''Once students complete the program, they are certified to industry standards in that particular profession they are working in,'' said Melvin Stewart, the program's administrator.
In addition to the 144 hours of instruction, they must have 2,000 hours of work-based experience.
''Some people may say that 2,000 is a lot, and we do have some that don't have 2,000 when they graduate. But we can track them after graduation, and if they are still studying in this area we can give them certification in their field,'' Stewart said.
The program allows juniors and seniors to leave school during the day to go to job sites.
''Basically what the program does is integrate school-based learning with work-based learning,'' Stewart said. ''They get the theory in the classroom, but they get the hands-on learning on the job.''
Before students go on the job, Stewart develops a training plan with the businesses to outline the skills the students will learn while working as apprentices.
A program to train students to move into the heating and air conditioning industry started last summer. It is a partnership between Augusta Technical College, heating and air conditioning businesses and area high schools, including those in Richmond County.
During the summer between their sophomore and junior years, and again after they graduate, students take three weeks of heating and air conditioning courses at Augusta Tech. The Hope Scholarship pays for all instruction. In their junior and senior years, students leave school in the afternoon to work on the job. After they graduate and complete the three weeks at Augusta Tech, students are industry-certified.
''We've just had five students go through the first summer - three from Evans High and two from Harlem High,'' Stewart said. ''This youth apprenticeship program really gives them a jump start in the job market.''
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