Georgia launches German apprenticeship program for high schoolers

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle launched a rigorous apprenticeship program Monday that he hopes will soon expand across Georgia.

The Georgia Consortium of Advanced Technical Training at Coweta County’s College and Career Academy is modeled after a successful three-year German program that has provided a steady pipeline of highly-skilled industrial workers.

It will give high school students in Georgia the chance to earn a high school diploma, a German apprenticeship certificate and an associate degree in industrial mechanics through West Georgia Technical College by the time they graduate.

They'll also earn spending money: Sophomores in the program will start off making at least $8 an hour while taking college classes and apprenticeship courses. By the 12th grade, participants will spend 80 percent of their day at a manufacturing site earning $12 an hour.

Cagle celebrated the program Monday by signing a certificate of understanding with tech school officials and the German American Chamber of Commerce. The initial class will accept 11 students out of 19 finalists. Eight corporations have signed up to participate in the pilot program.

Cagle pushed legislation last year that laid the framework for the system by giving local school boards more power to award high school diplomas to students in dual enrollment programs.

“This is going to spread across this entire state. In Germany, 1.5 million people are involved in this program. And we’re starting with 11. But you’ve got to till the soil. And today, we’re planting the seed,” said Cagle. “We’re doing something no one thought we could do. And we’re doing it together.”

Nicholas Kemp, a 15-year-old student, aims to be one of the first participants in the program. Both his grandparents were mechanical engineers and he’s eager to follow in their footsteps.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “I just want to graduate with a good job making good money. And this program sets me up. It gives me all the opportunities I need.”