Kathy Livsie teaches mechanical engineering technology at Gaston College. She is teaching many of the core curriculum classes that the apprentices are required to take in accordance with their job descriptions, including industrial safety, introduction to technology, mechanical manufacturing systems, engineering materials and introduction to automation and blueprint-reading, amongst others. Math and science classes are also included in the curriculum for apprentices.
Livsie began her career as an industrial engineer and went into teaching after starting her family. She taught developmental math at Cleveland Community College and joined Gaston College as an adjunct instructor in 1999. She has been teaching full-time at the college for five years.
With her previous experience in the manufacturing industry, Livsie was perfectly suited to be the lead Gaston College faculty member for the Apprenticeship 321 program. Her passion for robotics—a technology that is increasingly important in manufacturing—gives her a platform for reaching out to the community to help promote the apprenticeship program, as Pickett informed.
Encouraging participation by women is a priority for the program. Women are in demand in the technological fields, because their approach to problems is different from that of their male counterparts. Companies have found that they can get faster solutions to problems by having differing viewpoints working together and sharing ideas. Livsie has observed that her female students tend to get more and faster job offers, because there are not as many women vying for positions in manufacturing.
“I am a strong supporter of the Apprenticeship 321 program,” Livsie said, “because I see this as a win-win situation for both my students and the companies. The students who are chosen by the companies get their education paid for and get work experience. Recent graduates often find that companies are reluctant to hire you without any job experience. This program takes care of that. They are paid for their work, and their pay increases as they demonstrate increasing skill levels.”
Upon completion, each apprentice has a journeyman’s certificate that is recognized nationwide, as well as job experience. And they have no debt for their education, and they have made some money, too, as Livsie noted.
“I don’t know of any other way a community college student can get this same result,” she added.
Pickett continued that in addition to certification in a skilled trade and an academic credential from Gaston College, apprentices also receive a nationally recognized certificate of career readiness. This is a portable work skills credential to add to their portfolios and résumés.
The Apprenticeship 321 program may take two to three years to complete. Of the 23 students currently in the program, 12 are new apprentices, and 11 are in their second year with two participating local companies: STEAG Energy Services in Kings Mountain and Daimler Trucks North America in Gastonia. The other companies in the program now are Aptar Food & Beverage and Kaco USA, both in Lincolnton; CTL Packaging USA and LanXess, both in Dallas; Rockwood Lithium in Kings Mountain; and Firestone Fibers and Textiles and Wix Filters, both in Gastonia.
Pickett added that the National Science Foundation helped with a grant for the program’s start-up. To learn more about this program, check out the Website at www.gaston.edu/apprenticeship-321 or e-mail Gaston College Associate Engineering and Technology Dean Dr. George Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dean Virgil Cox, head of the same department, at email@example.com. You may also call Cox and Hendricks respectively at 704-922-6296 or 704-922-6305.
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