Students and apprentices through Premier Technology’s program gifted a retired flag deposit box to the American Legion on Veterans Day this month. This box will be used to drop off United States flags that have been worn out so that the members of the Legion can retire it properly.
Premier and Blackfoot High School partnered together to bring in some of the school’s top students and give them experience on the project.
This came before the week of Nov. 14, which is National Apprenticeship Week. The box was created for an apprentice challenge project as a part of the program to test the skills of the apprentices and students working in it.
The American Legion is a national veterans service organization, and they will retire people’s flags when they drop them off. The problem was that people would put them on the ground when the building wasn’t open, so this box will be an easy place for people to put the old flags.
Gene Womack, finance officer with the Stewart Hoover American Legion post, said, “It benefits us because before we’re only open from four to eight in the evenings and people hang flags on the door and everything else so this makes it more convenient to have a drop box outside where they can drop them off.”
This is the third year of Premier’s apprenticeship program, which David Phinney, apprentice coordinator, called “an alternate pathway of education.” It was started because the company decided they needed to train their own welders.
“We’re having a hard time finding enough qualified welders, craftsmen and so we decided we needed to train our own,” Phinney said.
It’s a four-year program that is meant to train up apprentices in the culture of Premier Technology, and someday the students who also participated may join the program if they choose to do so.
“We thought this would be a good time to get some of their top students in and work with them and kind of see what their skills are and actually get them out of the classroom into our shop and see what their interest was in welding and if they thought that they might want to pursue a career here,” Phinney said.
Phinney said that when a company starts its own apprenticeship program, “you’re reaching out to your community. You’re providing a lot of high school graduates with alternative means of education.”
Premier’s apprenticeship program is a competency based program with a set number of training hours that apprentices complete. When the company does reviews every six months, if the apprentice is excelling or mastered the competencies for that apprentice level they can be pushed on to the next level. Because of this, they’ve had students graduate from the four-year program even though it’s only been in operation for three years.
The program does not cost anything for accepted apprentices and is paid for through some Idaho funding and grants. Students who graduate from the program go on to work at Premier and start at a craft level two, meaning they’ll be making $24 per hour along with a 401k with paid time off, as well as medical and dental throughout the program.
“It’s an alternative means of education that provides students who may not have the resources to go to college or may not have the desire to go,” Phinney said. “Not every person is gonna want to go to college or pursue a college degree, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot get training in a specific trade.”
One of the benefits the students of BHS received when working on this project was that they were able to work with apprentices who have been welding for two years and learn things from them. For the more experienced students, they gained leadership training over the course of the project.
“We were able to kind of bring our resources together and involve our local high schools’ welding program and build something for the community,” Phinney said.
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