Last month, community partners packed a training classroom at the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) maintenance facility to launch a pre-apprenticeship pathways program.
Four students who are enrolled in Charlotte Works’ Youth Works program are participating in classroom and hands-on training that includes topics such as transit care, information technology, operations and finance.
The 14-month initiative is a collaboration among Charlotte Works, CATS and the City of Charlotte’s Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP).
When Israel Garcia-Perez completed his MYEP internship as a secret shopper with CATS last summer, he had no idea that his presentation to the transit staff would spawn a program that gives an opportunity to youth who are interested in the diesel auto-mechanics industry.
“I got to see the city from a different point of view. I’m very glad that something I did has turned into something that other students can experience,” says Garcia-Perez, a 2015 graduate of Myers Park High School.
Students completed an application, in-person interviews and an aptitude test. The students who posted the top scores on the aptitude test were selected to be the inaugural class.
“These four youth are setting the standards,” says Anna London, youth programs manager at Charlotte Works. “I hope they set them high so that other youth can follow in their footsteps.”
Reggie Arrington began as a technician 18 years ago with CATS. Now, as director of maintenance for the bus operations division, he’s looking forward to the students’ real-world experience in a unionized maintenance shop. The pre-apprenticeship closely mirrors the training program that new technicians complete after being hired with CATS.
The program is also structured to align with the diesel and heavy equipment technology program at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), should the students decide to pursue a career in the transportation industry.
“If they want to pursue this career, it will make it a lot easier for them once they get to college. They will be ahead of the game because they would’ve learned a lot of the material already,” Arrington says.
Program partners are excited about the future of the program and look forward to its growth, including more recruitment targeting girls. Partners also have plans to expand the pre-apprenticeship program to other industries such as advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare and information technology.
“This is not just a one-time thing. We’re targeting this type of program to offer a new way of learning to get youth on a career path early,” says Charlotte Works’ President and CEO Steve Partridge.
Want to learn more about the pre-apprenticeship program, including how to be considered for the next round? Contact Anna London, youth programs manager. Only Youth Works participants are eligible at this time.