Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Governor Cooper Visits SEED Summer Apprenticeship Academy at Wayne Community College, Highlights Work-Based Learning Opportunities in Public Schools

Jul 10, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper visited Wayne Community College to highlight the Southeastern Education and Economic Development (SEED) Summer Apprenticeship Academy. The Governor was joined by local officials and educators as he met apprentices and highlighted work-based learning opportunities in public schools.

“Apprenticeship programs like SEED help students gain critical experience, get college credits and earn money while continuing their education,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “These programs are just one of the many ways North Carolina’s strong public schools and community colleges help prepare the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Thanks to investments from Smithfield Foods, Wayne Community College is helping students get experience and college credit while in high school,” said Wayne Community College President Dr. Patty Pfeiffer. “SEED is setting students on the path towards success and we are excited to show Governor Cooper our progress in this first year.”

A partnership between the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) and Smithfield Foods, SEED is a comprehensive youth apprenticeship program that will provide career pathways and college education for high school students in southeastern North Carolina counties. Governor Cooper announced the SEED program in November 2023.

Youth apprenticeship programs offer students the opportunity to jump-start their careers while still in high school. Students accepted into the SEED program begin their pre-apprenticeship program in 11th or 12th grade, taking community college classes, participating in paid work-based learning and having access to mentors in the company sponsoring their work-based learning experience.

In its first year, SEED has focused on the Industrial Maintenance pathway and launched the Summer Manufacturing Academy at Lenoir and Wayne Community Colleges. 33 students from Greene, Jones, Lenoir, and Wayne counties are attending this 7-week academy taking three community college classes, participating in hands-on leaning and taking field trips to local manufacturers.

Smithfield Foods donated $1 million dollars to NCBCE to develop the SEED Initiative to create a youth apprenticeship system. The grant funds 50% of wages for new apprenticeship coordinators in the pilot county. The grant funding includes student stipends of $1,500 for participation in the program. SEED also covers supplies, technology and transportation to support student success. The grant funds 23 students and Anonymous Trust is funding student stipends for 10 students.

In 2025, the program will expand to offer an additional pathway in Farm Leadership and will begin supporting youth apprentices in Duplin, Sampson and Wilson Counties in addition to students in the first cohort counties. The following year, the program will expand into Bladen and Columbus Counties and will add the Business Operations pathway.

Students in the SEED apprenticeship program will earn an Industrial Systems Technology Certificate, a Career Readiness Certificate, apprenticeship hours that will transfer to an adult apprenticeship program, and preferred employment opportunities at Smithfield Foods (pending meeting full-time employment requirements). In subsequent years, the program will expand to include pathways in farm leadership and business operations.

Students begin to make career and college decisions in middle school, and the SEED program will also include career awareness opportunities for middle school students as well as professional development opportunities for teachers and counselors. SEED will sponsor parent and student nights to help families understand apprenticeship programs and what those career pathways look like.

Governor Cooper has urged for investments in public schools so opportunities like youth apprenticeship programs continue to grow. In April, Governor Cooper released his recommended budget for FY 2024-2025, Securing North Carolina’s Future which includes over $1 billion towards public education. The House and Senate have not included meaningful investments for public schools in their proposed budgets.


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