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Making dreams come true through apprenticeships

FRANKFORT, Ky. — After graduating in the top 10 percent of his class at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Steve Blevins received multiple scholarship offers from a number of colleges. It was time for him to make a decision about his future, but his choice likely surprised some.

“In high school there was a negative stigma that always lingered about the trades,” said Blevins. “They were seen as a ‘plan B’ option or something you should do if you could not make it in college. There was little to no information in our school about apprenticeships, you just didn’t hear about them.”

Blevins, however, was fortunate to be well acquainted with the benefits of trade skills. His father has been a maintenance supervisor for more than 40 years. Following in his father’s example, Blevins decided to obtain his machinist certification through an apprenticeship with Atlas Machine and Supply of Louisville, one of the largest heavy-capacity industrial machinery engineering, manufacturing and remanufacturing centers in the United States.

“I was very impressed with Steve from the start,” said Rich Gimmel, president of Atlas Machine and Supply of Louisville. “He was only 17 when we hired him, and he walked in the first day and went to work. He had the wisdom to respect the trade and did fantastic in our apprenticeship program.”

Blevins became one of 10 apprentices working at Atlas, acquiring more than 8,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and the 576 hours of classwork needed to become a machinist through the Kentuckiana Machining Association.

Soon after receiving his machinist certification, word spread of this young man’s aptitude and attitude, and Blevins received a job offer.

“I have always been a hands-on learner, and although to most people college was the route I should have taken, I am very happy to be working with my hands in a skilled trade and the money is fantastic,” said Blevins.

“I enjoy putting my skills to work to make and repair critical parts needed for operation of the plant. My work is very rewarding. The parts I make keep this company in production and that provides me with a satisfaction I couldn’t get out of any other career field.”

Apprenticeships play a key role in supplying Kentucky’s workforce with highly trained, highly skilled workers through innovative forms of job training. The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC) launched the “Kentucky Trained. Kentucky Built.” campaign to signal the state’s commitment to aligning resources to strengthen Kentucky’s workforce through the apprenticeship model.

The EWDC apprenticeship team has traveled statewide visiting more than 50 Kentucky schools educating more than 10,000 high school students about the career opportunities created by participating in apprenticeships.

Currently, there are more than 100 different occupations participating in the apprenticeship model including Kentucky’s top occupations such as electricians, pipe fitters, line installers, certified nurse assistants, and steel workers.