Two people working on the underside of the wheel of a car

“Earn while you Learn” through an apprenticeship program

By Kelli Stewart
Apprenticeship Coordinator
Blue Ridge Community College

Headshot of Kelli Stewart
Whether you’re starting your career or looking to transition into a new field, joining an apprenticeship program can give you the free training and skills you need—while earning a full-time salary and attending class only one day a week.

At Blue Ridge, we heard from many prospective students that they wanted to continue their education, but didn’t want to go into debt, quit their job, or spend five days a week in the classroom. We also talked to local employers who needed a skilled workforce but couldn’t find the right talent. With this feedback in mind, we designed our apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeship Blue Ridge programs
Blue Ridge currently offers apprenticeship programs in automotive, business & banking, electrical, and manufacturing.

Apprentices attend class one day per week and work the balance of the week with their employer. They’re paid for their time on the job and in the classroom. As apprentices continue through the program, their wages increase progressively, depending on their chosen industry. When they complete their apprenticeship program, they’ll have a credential in their chosen field without college debt. Not only do the apprentices earn a certificate from Blue Ridge, but they also earn state and federal recognition through the Journeyman Certificate.

One of the key tenets of our apprenticeship programs is mentorship. Whenever we talk with employers interested in our apprenticeship program, we stress the importance of mentoring. We require employers to provide at least one mentor for each apprentice. The mentor teaches the apprentice on-the-job skills and can answer their questions as they learn and progress their knowledge.

Who is eligible for the apprenticeship programs?
These programs are available to anyone 18 and older who wants to start a new career in one of our apprenticeship areas. We have more options coming in 2023 in horticulture, welding, plumbing, and public safety.

Our apprenticeship programs are competitive, and not everyone who applies will be accepted. Candidates must go through an interview process. Blue Ridge also hosts an open house for candidates to meet with prospective employers, industry tours, and a two-week professional development program in the summer to prepare candidates for interviews. At the end of the two weeks, we have “draft day.” Candidates rank their choice of employers while the employers do the same.

After draft day and the interview process, the elected candidates receive an offer to become full-time employees as an apprentice.

For those who weren’t selected for an apprenticeship, we provide comprehensive wrap-around services through our Student Services team to explore other education programs. If they don’t want to go to school, we connect them with the NCWorks team. It’s our mission to help them find the right fit that benefits them and our community.

Feedback from apprenticeships and employers
Candidates express gratitude that they’re obtaining an amazing opportunity to earn while they learn. They appreciate the ability to grow their careers while earning an income and having the flexibility to be with their families.

Through apprenticeship, the apprentices realize the investment being made in them, and in return, the employer is strengthening their workforce pipeline, which results in retention. Employers are strategically finding ways to grow their teams today and tomorrow, and apprenticeship does just that.

To learn more about becoming an apprentice or hosting an apprenticeship program at your company, visit