Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute launched a new pre-apprenticeship program this week on the Watauga Campus in Boone.

Featuring five Watauga High School students, the 8-week program combines classroom instruction and hands-on experience with local employers to prepare students for careers in the construction trades industry.

The Trade Up program was developed through a partnership with the High Country Home Builders Association, Watauga High School, Watauga Economic Development Commission, NCWorks and CCC&TI. The students will complete 96 hours of construction fundamentals, soft skills classroom instruction, along with 192 hours of on-site construction experience with a local employer. The participating employers are: Sky House LLC, JS Design Build/Alair Homes, Charleston Forge, Capehart & Washburn LLC and 4 Forty Four.

“It started as a brainstorming session last year at one of our membership meetings and grew in today’s pilot program,” said Patricia Pembridge, High Country Home Builders Executive Officer. “We have a committee of wonderful folks who volunteered their time to organize and formalize Trade Up.”

CCC&TI is planning a similar construction trades pre-apprenticeship for Caldwell County students as well. The goal of the apprenticeship is to introduce local students to opportunities in the construction trades, while also filling a growing industry need for skilled workers.

“The intent is to encourage vocational-minded high school students to pursue a skilled-trade occupation,” said Dr. Mark Barber, CCC&TI Associate Dean of Vocational and Technical Studies. “The students’ tuition is waived, so they’re attending for free while earning credentials and getting paid for the on-the-job-training time. It’s a win-win for local high school students and participating local employers who need skilled workers.”

Support for the initiative includes funding from the National Housing Endowment’s Skilled Labor Grant, the Watauga Economic Development Commission and High Country Home Builders. The first class also received support from Lowe’s in Boone. On the first day of class, representatives of the Lowe’s store brought the students 5-gallon buckets filled with various tools, a tool belt and other helpful items for prospective construction workers.

For information about CCC&TI’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program, call CCC&TI Energy and Constructions Trades Director Justin Harris at 828-726-2611.

Photo: Participants and partners in the first Trade Up Pre-Apprenticeship class at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s Watauga Campus include: (front row, left to right) Kayla Cook, Lowe’s Department Supervisor; Nathan Trivett of Boone; Jacob Hoke of Boone, Ian McCart of Vilas, Berkley Smith of Deep Gap, Gabe Huntsman of Boone and Lowe’s Store Manager Dawn Roach; (back row, left to right) Patricia Pembridge, High Country Home Builders Association Executive Officer; Reagan Greer, Lowe’s Department Supervisor; Justin Harris, CCC&TI Energy and Construction Trades Director; Chris Roten, Construction Fundamentals Instructor; Dr. Mark Barber, CCC&TI Associate Dean of Vocational and Technical Studies.