Some local students took advantage of a new career apprenticeship program in their own backyard.

Five Chambersburg Area Senior High School students graduated from JLG Industries' School-To-Work program in Shippensburg on Tuesday during which they learned skills related to mechanics and hydraulics, welding and more. All five students received full-time job offers from JLG for graduating from the program.

The five senior students -- Connor Plank, Devin Remsburg, Ryan Shoop, John Wolfinger and Dawson Avey – participated in the inaugural pilot program beginning in September of 2018. Three out of the five graduates have accepted their offers so far. The Chambersburg school district selected the students for the program based on their interest in vocational trade.

Amanda Snider, plant HR manager, noted JLG is preparing to have twice as many CASHS students participate in the program for the upcoming school year. JLG is also having preliminary conversations about starting similar programs in other school districts, like Shippensburg Area School District, she said.

The five students worked with JLG mentors for three hours in the morning, five days a week, at the facility and then returned to school to complete their classroom requirements. Each student earned compensation, as well as three high school class credits.

“If you look at past generations, there used to be a lot of focus around vocational programs, but now, as the generations have changed, there's been more of a push that once you graduate high school, your next step is to pursue that college degree,” Snyder said. “Whereas employers, such as us at JLG, manufacturing is our industry, and we are building those vocational skills, identifying and really bringing that spotlight back to vocational trade.”

She said there is a “vested interest and a dire need” for vocational skills because their team members need these skills in order for their business to function day-to-day. These students picked up the skills in the training quicker than some of their newly hired employees off the street, Snyder said.

Snider added the company will provide tuition reimbursement for these graduates if they were to decide to go back to school to pursue a post-secondary school degree.

Graduate Ryan Shoop was familiar with basic tools entering the program, but he noted that he was glad he did not exaggerate his base of skills as there were a lot more tools to learn than he expected. He said his JLG mentors were accommodating during his fall football season. He also applied some lessons learned during football season to the program.

“I guarantee you, you are always going to ask questions no matter what, that's a big thing that they teach you in football,” Shoop said. “There is nothing wrong with asking questions. I remember when I was asking about something, and he was like, ‘You do it this way instead of that way.’ It makes sense. You have to do it the right way, even if it takes longer. You can't just short cut it.”

After graduating, Shoop wants to enjoy life, but also experiment by trying out different jobs related to what he learned at JLG.

Graduate Dawson Avey learned how valuable it can be to step out of his comfort zone and work at JLG every day, rather than sit in a classroom. He learned some soft skills, like learning to respect authority, but also learned how to manufacture different lifts.

“I never knew anything about assembling a boom (lift), I didn't really even know much about JLG, except for that it was a factory. I thought it was just welding,” he said.

Avey will continue to work at JLG over the summer, and then will return to the Marine Corps in September. His favorite part about the program was meeting people in a loose, but safe environment.

E. Lisa Vicente of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry attended the graduation ceremony, along with families and administration from the high school, to see what these young men were accomplishing. She came as a representative of the Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant Program, which is a statewide program that offers assistance to registered apprenticeship programs. The program's goal is to increase apprenticeship availability to Pennsylvania employers to assist them with their talent recruitment and development. JLG is currently applying for future grant funding through this program.

“JLG is doing a youth apprenticeship that's in its own way a bit innovative compared to some other areas of pre-apprenticeships,” she said.

Vicente noted the JLG program as a bit more advanced than other programs she has seen. Many programs will teach soft skills, and eventually the hard skills will be integrated into the training. However, JLG combines the training of soft and hard skills together on the job, and the hard skills are ultimately more stressed in the training.

Snyder also said, “They've not only developed professionally, but personally, and the teachers and the principal at the high school have even attested to that. That they've just noticed a different maturity and accountability happen in the students.”

Bill Tritt, program mentor, wasn’t sure what to expect with the generational gap between him and the students. Ultimately, he found that both sides were able to adapt to each other and benefit as a result.

“It helps them, plus it helps me,” he said.

Tritt found the program taught the students about work environment deadlines and working with others.

For more information on JLG, visit: www.jlg.com.

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