Neshoba Central High School and McLain Plumbing and Electrical Service of Philadelphia have partnered in an apprenticeship program which will allow seniors to not only graduate with a high school diploma but also an opportunity to earn industry credentials.
Lundy Brantley, superintendent of education, and Phillip McLain of McLain Plumbing announced the partnership this week, calling it a win-win for the school district, the students and the Philadelphia industry.
“It’s a rare situation where everybody wins,” Dr. Brantley said, “and it doesn’t cost us a dime.”
They were joined by David Vowell, president of the Community Development Partnership, and Brent Bean, vice president-adult craft training for the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.
The group cited a need for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and sheet metal technicians as well as plumbers not only in Mississippi but nation-wide as well.
They also noted that careers in those fields pay higher salaries.
“HVAC techs, sheet metal and plumbers are in such high demand,” Bean said. “For whatever reason, guys are not wanting to go in those fields even though they are the higher paying skilled jobs. They are really higher paying now because there is such a demand for them for lack of a workforce.”
Participants can gain credentials and certificates that are recognized by employers in that industry, which gives them a head start in their career field after high school.
Students in the apprenticeship may start on a career path that continues after high school graduation, whether that is a continuation of their apprenticeship along with college, college only, apprenticeship only or other full-time employment.
High school apprenticeships benefit businesses as well by providing a fresh source of talent developed from within their community, according to the U. S. Department of Labor.
Brantley said a participant’s weekly schedule could be tailored to work one or more days a week at McLain Plumbing.
“If somebody wants to do this next semester we can get creative with scheduling,” he said. “Next year, we will be able to do the scheduling where a student can work as many hours as Phillip needs them to work and pay them.”
Students must be 18 years old to participate in the apprenticeship and they must have completed most of the required classes needed to graduate.
McLain shared Brantley’s excitement about the program.
“This will be an opportunity for students who have no interest in going on to further education after high school,” he said. “We want to give them an opportunity for an apprenticeship program for the higher paying technical trades.”
McLain used as an example a young man who might not be a good student, but would be a good employee.
“Sitting in a desk for six hours isn’t for everyone,” McLain said. “We are trying to give those guys an opportunity to gain those skills.”
McLain doesn’t encourage any student to go to work before they get their diploma.
“The whole key here is to give them some incentive to finish their high school career and still be able to earn some working credit and accomplish both goals.”
McLain said the first student would be trained in HVAC service.
“He will be put in a HVAC service truck with a technician where he can get some on-the-job training,” he said.
Brantley said the apprenticeship would be very beneficial for students who want to live and work in Neshoba County after graduation.
“I’ve worked with David [Vowell] for two-and-a-half years,” he said. “There are great jobs here, and if you stay and make a career, you can do pretty well.”
Vowell agreed that college is not for everyone and praised McLain for taking the initiative with the school district.
“McLain is so well respected here,” Vowell said. “For y’all to take that lead, it may open up some of these other industries to someone else.”
Bean, whose company educates and trains for jobs and careers in the construction and manufacturing industries in Mississippi, fields calls from principals and superintendents often about similar programs.
“We meet and we meet and nothing comes of it,” he said. “With Dr. Brantley, we are not just meeting, we are going to do it. That is what’s exciting to go back and tell our board of directors. Neshoba Central, they are doing the things we talk about, partnering up education and industry where these students are getting their education while they are working on the job training. That’s what we want.”
Neshoba Central High School Principal Jason Gentry also voiced support for the apprenticeship.
“If we don’t do this, we are going to lose some of our students,” he said. “Because some of them see nothing ahead in the tunnel that excites them about their future. We want them to have opportunities, too.”