FREEPORT, PA – Five years ago, a human resources executive from Oberg Industries and a physics teacher from Highlands High School struck up a conversation at the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ high school robotics competition.
The talk segued into ways that the two could partner together. Freeport-based Oberg, heavily dependent on area vocational and technical schools for young hires, wanted to broaden the fishing pond to get more candidates, while Highlands High School in Natrona Heights wanted to find new and different opportunities for students who didn’t want to go to college.
That was the genesis of Oberg’s Junior Apprentice Advantage program. JAA is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative offering industry-specific training to qualified 12th-grade students at Highlands. To date, 30 Highlands students have participated, and one-third have been accepted into the precision manufacturer’s state-certified registered apprenticeship program upon graduation, said Linda Wood, Oberg’s training programs manager.
“We have a four-step hiring program, and they have to meet the exact same requirements as the students from technical schools to be accepted into the apprenticeship program,” Wood said. “That hands-on element they get from us helps.”
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