CMSD 'school-to-apprenticeship' program helps students discover new careers without stockpiling debt

CLEVELAND - A new program at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is teaching students skills for a lifelong career — and helping local companies find the workers they need.

The “school-to-apprenticeship” program began this summer with three students from Max Hayes High School. They worked throughout the summer at various sheet metal companies, including T.H. Martin on Brookpark Road in Cleveland.

The program worked so well that the companies and school have now decided to continue on throughout the students’ senior years, allowing them to work part-time.

The students earn $12.50 an hour and when they graduate, they will get direct entry into a 5-year sheet metal apprenticeship. At that point, they will start at $14.84 per hour, plus benefits. They’ll also earn college credits during the apprenticeship. Following that, they will become journeymen, who earn $37.53 per hour.

“It’s a program that the trades have been trying to work with CMSD for many, many years to get established and we finally got there,” said John Nesta, the construction curriculum specialist at Max Hayes.

Nesta said they started with just three students to see how well the program did, and they plan on expanding it to more students and more trades, including plumbing and electrical.

“For years, everyone pushed college, college, college, but this is a way to have a good career without any of that debt,” Nesta explained.

Kendrick Hunt, 17, is a senior at Max Hayes and one of the students in the program. He applied at the urging of his parents.

“This was a way they thought I could be comfortable in life instead of having to go to college and pay debt and all that,” Hunt said.

Hunt lives on the other side of town, takes a bus and walks to work every day. It takes about an hour, but he said he knows its worth it for his future.

“Teaches me a lot of stuff about life, responsibility, dedication, work ethic,” Hunt said. “All that ties together and feels like it can make me a better person.”

Hunt said he enjoys the work and plans to continue with the field and become an apprentice after graduation.

To be eligible for the program, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5, a minimum attendance of 95 percent, and pass a drug test.

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