Apprenticeship 321 program provides a career, an education, and a sure path to a better life
The Gaston College Apprenticeship 321 program gives individuals the opportunity for on-the-job training with local companies and a cost-free education from Gaston College. Some participants in the program also find support for a new direction and a better path.
Michael Childers dropped out of East Lincoln High School in 2002, when he was in 9th grade. He did not like going to school, and felt he was getting nothing by attending. Although at 16 he found work hanging sheet rock and at 18 he began working for R-ANell, a builder of modular homes, Childers took some wrong turns and got in with the wrong crowd. That led to his involvement with drugs and a downward spiral.
Childers had gotten married in 2010 and by 2015 he and his wife Narissa had three children—two daughters and a son. The severity of Childers’ drug problem resulted in the Department of Social Services (DSS) removing the three children from the home in mid-2015, and the couple lost their house as well. Childers felt that he had hit rock bottom, and he was determined to turn his life around. Toward the end of that year, he entered a drug treatment program to help him combat his dependencies.
In November 2016, Childers began working as a Machine Operator at Keystone Powdered Metal Company in Cherryville. He completed his drug treatment programs, and the children were returned to their home in the beginning of 2017. They are now ages 11, 6 and 4. January 2019 marks three years that Childers will be clean and sober.
Matt Jacobs, the Engineering and Technology Manager at Keystone, heard about Childers’ work ethic and abilities and informed him about the Apprenticeship 321 program. He explained that through the program Childers could gain some valuable technical skills, continue to earn a salary, and get an education at Gaston College, free of charge. Childers took classes at Gaston College in order to get his GED and, because he had time to study and scored very highly on the Placement Test, he was able to complete the requirements for the GED in just one month rather than the approximately three months it usually takes.
Childers’ diligence and determination have served him well. “I have had the privilege to work with Michael since May 2018,” said Jacobs. “He caught my attention through reports from my engineering staff. I would get reports of great work and ability with full potential of mechanical aptitude. Once I talked to Michael, he told me his goal is to become an Engineer. I could not help but want to help Michael realize that goal. Michael is working towards his apprenticeship as a Die-Setter for Keystone Powdered Metal Company. Michael has a bright future ahead.”
At a signing ceremony on September 10, 2018, Childers was one of 10 new apprentices who signed contracts with their employers to begin the Apprenticeship 321 program. At the completion of the two-year program, he will have earned his Journeyworker’s Certificate as a Die-Setter, and will be fully qualified to perform the tasks required for the position. After he achieves that, he may set his sights on other positions in the future. He intends to remain at Keystone.