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Apprenticeship Catawba Begins Search For Candidates

High school juniors looking to get a college education in a high-tech field with guaranteed employment—with no college tuition debt—have an exciting new opportunity with Apprenticeship Catawba.

Representatives from four area advanced manufacturers formed Apprenticeship Catawba to offer four-year apprenticeships that lead into high paying jobs. Most companies plan to bring in two apprentices in the first year.

Technibilt, Sarstedt USA, Tenowo Nonwovens and ZF Chassis Components collaborated with Catawba Valley Community College and the N.C. Department of Commerce to fill a growing workforce need, according to Kim Abernathy, director of human resources for Technibilt, located in Newton.

“Our challenge is hiring qualified candidates with the right skill set for our high-tech jobs,” said Abernathy.  Over the past few years, manufacturing processes have evolved to require workers with computer experience and the ability to function in a highly automated environment, she explained.

“Technibilt and most of the Apprenticeship Catawba partners assist their current workforce in acquiring these new skills,” Abernathy explained. “However, our goal with Apprenticeship Catawba is to groom our future workforce.”  
When the apprenticeship is complete, graduates will have completed an associate degree in either mechatronics engineering technology or computer integrated machining technology. The employers pay all tuition, books and associated fees. Completers also earn a Journeyman’s Certificate through the N.C. Department of Commerce, a nationally recognized industry credential signifying they have completed 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

To qualify for the program, one must be a high school junior with a 3.0 minimum grade point average, have good attendance and pass placement tests. Students must also be recommended by a high school guidance counselor or Career and Technical Education advisor.

The four companies will be making presentations in the local high schools starting in November. All public high schools in Catawba, Alexander and Lincoln counties will be visited. Students who meet the qualifications will be invited to attend one of the companies during an open house to learn more about the jobs involved in the apprenticeship.

Next spring, the interns will be selected and participate in a hands-on assignment at the job site.

The qualified group will then complete a six-week paid summer internship. Apprentices will be selected after reviewing the interns’ performance.  Apprentices begin their first year in fall 2014, attending high school half a day and working half a day. In year number two, they attend classes at CVCC for one full day a week and become employed full time, working for four days a week.

In year number three, they repeat the same schedule as the previous year with a pay increase. At the end of the year, they will have completed an associate degree without incurring any college debt.

After completion of the fourth year, a job is guaranteed if the apprentice has performed to the company’s satisfaction. Journeymen can expect to earn a minimum of $34,000 a year with any of the five companies, plus benefits.

Interested high school juniors should contact their Career and Technical Education advisor or guidance counselor.  For more information about Apprenticeship Catawba and the companies involved, visit

Pictured are parents and their children who attended an information session this past summer that explained how the program works.


2550 US HIGHWAY 70 SE • HICKORY, NC • 28602-8302 • 828.327.7000
Updated 10.30.2008: Administrator