OSH KOSH holds signing ceremony for JCHS apprentice welders

Jefferson County High School students Colton Masters, Dylan Dockery, Katie Belcher, Jackson Karr and Angel Fernandez “sign” for an apprenticeship to work at the Jefferson City Osh Kosh Industries plant.

Thursday’s signing ceremony for students from Jefferson County High School’s welding program mirrored that of a football or basketball star.

Jefferson County High School had five members of the Class of 2020 “sign” with Osh Kosh Industries to serve an apprenticeship at the company that makes transportation vehicles for the military.

Students Colton Masters, Dylan Dockery, Katie Belcher, Jackson Karr and Angel Fernandez all put their names on the dotted line at Thursday’s ceremony, held at the school’s welding department. The students signed with Oshkosh to pursue a welding apprenticeship and will help launch a partnership that will grow other opportunities in the community.

“This is a proud moment for all of us in Jefferson County,” County Mayor Mark Potts said. “On behalf of the Jefferson County Commission and the County Mayor’s Office, I want to say congratulations to you. We’re all excited about what is happening in Jefferson County, we have the opportunity with the partnership, it gives more people an opportunity to showcase our market. We are so proud of you. A year ago, we saw the vision, but we didn’t know what the faces looked like, but the important thing is now we know what the faces of the program will look like.”

Potts went on to say that this group will always be the first ones.

“You’re frontrunners. You’ll always be the first ones,” Potts said. “This helps the job market in Jefferson County because Osh Kosh brings opportunities for higher paying, more technical jobs. Jefferson County High has adapted and revamped their welding program with Osh Kosh’s support.

“This gives our high school students an opportunity to move directly into the workforce at a good wage with good benefits. This is going to affect everyone in our county as we move forward economically.

The “Pathways to High School Apprenticeships” program awarded JCHS a $77,025 grant in July for the development of a new apprenticeship program in their Career and Technology Education Department. This is the first time the high school has had an apprenticeship program and they were one of only four districts in the state to receive this grant. Money from the grant will go toward equipment for the workshops, personal protective equipment and industry certifications.

Seniors who applied for the program interviewed recently with Oshkosh and were able to take a tour of their facility. Students participating in this program will be eligible for dual enrollment credit through Tennessee College of Applied Technology. This will give them college hours toward their certificate or diploma in welding.

“There is a strong job market for welding right now. The growth rate is at 8.9%. We anticipate a lot of opportunities for students in our community over the next few years,” explained Dr. Rebecca Campbell, CTE Director at Jefferson County High School. “I anticipate this apprenticeship growing into a two year program where students spend half of their day on campus in a traditional classroom setting and the other half of their day working with our community partner.

“These students had shown some interest and intent to apply. I looked at their work ethic, attendance, tardies, grades, and they met all of the requirements with that. We selected these five to be interviewed at Osh Kosh. Three had had the welding classes, three did not. Osh Kosh is doing some cutting edge advance manufacturing. These guys are giving the opportunity to learn some high-wage skills,” Campbell said.

The dietary and nutrition class at the school provided snacks and bottled water after the ceremony.