Featured photo: Apprentice Erik Alba smiles while working at his electrical apprenticeship. (Photo by Rich Keen, Marketing and Communications Dept.)
Marketing and Communications Dept.
The following story was featured in Blue Ridge Community College’s 2021-22 annual report. This report and others are available online on the About Blue Ridge webpage.
After graduating from high school, Erik Alba wanted to attend college, but he had difficulty finding one that would enroll him. His parents lived in Mexico, and he said there were just too many financial and paperwork challenges to resolve. So, when a high school teacher told him about Blue Ridge Community College’s Electrical Apprenticeship program, he was more than thrilled.
Apprenticeship Blue Ridge allows eligible high school graduates and adult learners to earn while they learn in the classroom and on the job. Our standard model is for apprentices to attend class one day per week and work the balance of the week with their employer. As apprentices continue through the program, their wages progressively increase, depending on their chosen industry. Those who complete an apprenticeship earn a college credential from Blue Ridge along with the nationally recognized Journeyworker Certificate.
There is currently a severe, nationwide shortage of professionals in the skilled trades — particularly electricians. In The State of Our Workforce: Western NC 2022 Analysis, employers in the skilled and construction trades rated the talent pipeline a 2.6 on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents also reported that they will maintain or grow their workforce in the next three years.
“It’s such a great program,” Alba said. “I get to work and go to school at the same time, and I get paid for going to school. I’m able to pay my bills, work and attend school one day a week.”
Alba will complete his apprenticeship with Jackson Electrical within three years, and he recently finished his second semester. He said he is so excited to have the opportunity not only to have a job but also to build a long-term career.
“It’s really one of the greatest opportunities that has ever been presented to me,” he said. “Blue Ridge makes it easy to apply, and they really help you every step of the way. There are other apprenticeship programs available too, and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is eligible.”
After he completes the program, Alba looks forward to servicing the community where he lives and works. He is confident that what he is learning in both theory and practice will benefit customers.
“That on-the-job experience is very valuable,” he said. “I’m excited for what the future holds and am so grateful to be a part of this program.”
Read more stories like Alba’s in Blue Ridge Community College’s 2021-22 annual report. This report and others are available online on the About Blue Ridge webpage.