County’s first high school apprentices introduced at signing event

LEFT PHOTO: Back Row — Pat Breen (Principal at Constantine High School), Randi McGee (Carter's mom) DeWaine Harley (CTE Electrical, Plumbing, HVACR Instructor), Front Row - Carter McGee, Rick Smith (Electrician and owner of RS services). RIGHT PHOTO: Back Row — Jayson and Carma Kelley (parents), Darci Skrzyniarz (CTE Health Science Teacher), Front Row — Briley Kelley, Liz Shirk, CCM (Covered Bridge Healthcare). (Alek Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

Centreville junior Briley Kelley and Constantine junior Carter McGee were introduced at Monday’s St. Joseph County Intermediate School District Board of Education meeting as the county’s first registered high school apprentices.

In a scene right out of college football’s National Signing Day, McGee and Kelley posed for photos with their families, educators, and respective apprenticeship supervisors before officially signing the dotted line on Monday. Kelley who has aspirations of joining the long line of nurses in her family will serve her apprenticeship at Covered Bridge Healthcare in Centreville, while McGee looks forward to working alongside electrical contractor Rick Smith of RS Services in Three Rivers for his.

Prior to Monday’s event, the county didn’t permit apprenticeships to high school students but now that that’s no longer the case, CTE Director Tommy Cameron is excited about the opportunities it will present for students and local employers alike.

“We got the ceiling lifted off the top of the building for us when it comes to apprenticeships,” Cameron said during Monday’s meeting. “Previously, you needed to be over 18 years old and you needed to have a high school diploma to start your apprenticeship. That’s not the way it is anymore.” 

CTE Career Coordinator Sarah Beckle said she approached McGee and Kelley about taking on an apprenticeship, rather than the other way around, as this was a completely new endeavor within St. Joseph County. She said McGee was her “guinea pig,” as she has known McGee for a long time, and therefore was the ideal candidate to start the process with. McGee will not complete his apprenticeship before he graduates high school but the early start will give him a leg up on the 8,000 hours of on the job training he needs in order to do so.

McGee said working with his father sparked his interest (pun intended) in pursuing a career as an electrician, and is a big reason why he feels prepared going into his work with RS Services. The Constantine High School junior is currently enrolled in the Early Middle College program at Glen Oaks Community College where he plans to graduate with an associate’s degree in electrical science. McGee is currently taking DeWaine Harley’s CTE class, where he is one of Harley’s “best students,” according to his instructor.

Beckle said she encountered Kelley while meeting first-year applicants for CTE’s health sciences program, and knew immediately that she was Beckle’s “MA” (medical assistant) apprentice. Kelley will be pursuing a competency based apprenticeship with Covered Bridge Healthcare, and if all goes well, she’ll complete her apprenticeship with a Department of Labor certificate for medical assisting before or upon her high school graduation.

Kelley said she is “grateful for this opportunity,” as she’ll be able to work in a healthcare facility prior to graduating high school. She hopes to work as a nurse in obstetrics or NICU upon graduating from Glen Oaks’ LPN and RN programs.

“I like helping people,” Kelley said. “I think there’s no greater joy than being able to help, especially when it comes to the babies. Plus, there’s always going to be a need for healthcare workers.” 

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.

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