SCOTTSBLUFF — Scottsbluff High School has joined forces with 21st Century Equipment to roll out a new apprenticeship program in diesel mechanics and industrial manufacturing.
Scottsbluff High School Principal Mike Halley was joined by Wayne Brozek with 21st Century Equipment and representatives from the Nebraska Department of Labor, Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office and others for a signing ceremony Thursday morning at the high school.
The program, the first of its kind in the state, is available to juniors and seniors in the Skilled and Technical Sciences or the Ag, Food and Natural Resources career pathways. The program extends after graduation into post-secondary education.
“We’re really encouraged by the partnerships we have in the community and I’m excited how this partnership evolved,” Principal Halley said. “I hope we can meet the needs of both our students and our corporate partners.”
Wayne Brozek, Aftermarket Vice President with 21st Century Equipment, said the program started a year as a conversation with the school.
“Our industry has a real need for skilled technicians,” he said. “We wished we had an apprenticeship program or a channel to get students involved in our companies. I think this will be a great opportunity for the youth in our community and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Brozek said that because of advances in technology, the “trades” industry has changed dramatically in just the past few years. Twenty years ago, the first tool a technician would grab was usually a wrench or something similar. Today, it’s a laptop computer.
21st Century Equipment is the second company offering an apprenticeship program at Scottsbluff High School. A year ago, Aulick Industries signed an agreement to offer an apprenticeship for industrial manufacturing technicians, which is still going strong.
Brozek described the apprenticeship program as “robust” with substantial educational and training components. Some of the courses offer dual credit at Western Nebraska Community College.
After graduation, students will attend the Milford campus of Southeast Community College in their John Deere technical program to earn an associate’s degree.
The internship then continues with 21st Century Equipment until apprentices are certified as diesel mechanics. Along the way, apprentices will receive 4,500 hours of on-the-job training.
Scott Asmus, Apprenticeship Job Training Program Coordinator with the Nebraska Department of Labor, said Registered Apprenticeship is an employer driven model. It’s paired with on-the-job learning and related technical instruction.
“I can’t stress this enough, but the program is more than training; it’s employment,” Asmus said. “These young people will be working and getting paid by 21st Century Equipment. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to begin building their careers.”
Asmus added the retention rate of apprentices staying in their communities is about 87% three years after they’ve completed their training. He said that’s important because of the state’s low unemployment rate.
“We’re hoping to continue partnering with local companies to offer more apprenticeship opportunities to kids,” Principal Halley said. “We’ll continue to develop opportunities as needs in the community arise.”