‘Earning while they’re learning’ – SCC apprenticeship signing fosters partnerships with employers

Southeastern Community College celebrated seven apprentices, school partnerships and local employers during the college’s second ever apprenticeship signing event on Sept. 6 in the auditorium. SCC recognized Ashlea Talton, Camryn Hales, Caroline Milliken, Emalee Dudley, Jimena Lopez, Keslynn Pait and Tyler Thompson as apprentices.   

“Today, we are giving students an amazing key,” said SCC Executive Vice President Dr. Sylvia Cox. “A key not just to education but a key to partnership with an industry partner that is going to give them a key – an opening that is unlike anything else that we do. That powerful key is going to open a door to opportunity because that’s what we do at Southeastern Community College, right?” 

Cox explained that the apprenticeship signing will start a “whirlwind of activities, learning and synergy” that will create an “amazing employee.” She said these “keys” were not available to everyone because they were selected in recognition of their talents. In 1937, the National Apprenticeship Act was passed, and the seven apprentices recognized on Sept. 6 are nationally recognized registered apprentices.  

“Students are earning while they’re learning,” Cox said. “What a powerful combination, and so we’re here today to celebrate our employers.” 

Talton, who was unable to attend the signing event, is an early childhood education major who will work at Southeastern Community College in the child development center on campus. She is 29 years old and has three children. In her spare time, Talton enjoys nature, traveling, meeting new people and animals. 

Hales will work in the child development center on campus while earning her associate of arts degree in teacher preparation. Hales is a Bladenboro native and will transfer to UNC Pembroke to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.  

Milliken is a Nakina native who is enrolled in the medical laboratory technician program, and she will work at Columbus Regional Healthcare System. In her spare time, Milliken enjoys nature with hunting, fishing and sailing at Lake Waccamaw.  

Dudley was born and raised in Chadbourn and is a 2023 graduate of West Columbus High School. Dudley is a medical laboratory technician major and will work at Columbus Regional Healthcare System. She credits Lisa Hamilton, Dawn Williamson and her parents as her inspiration and encouragement.  

“The demand for talent is exceedingly large, and it’s extremely difficult to attract talent and retain talent,” said CRHS CEO Jason Beck. “The apprenticeship program is such a great pathway to show what’s available in the community, the pathways for success, and I’m super excited about where this is going. There’s a lot of great momentum in the county.” 

Lopez will earn her associate of science degree while working as a chemistry lab assistant on campus. She attended Thomas Academy and graduated as valedictorian. She plans on becoming a pharmacist. Lopez is one of five siblings placed in a group home, but she is reunited with her mother. 

Pait is a 2017 graduate of WCHS and is enrolled in the early childhood education program. She will work at the child development center on campus and hopes to “ignite a spark of creativity and a sense of self-confidence” within every child she teaches. 

Thompson is a 19-year-old native of Lake Waccamaw, and he is a 2023 Columbus Career and College Academy graduate with a welding technology diploma from SCC. During the summer, Thompson enrolled in a work based learning class and became an intern at Council Tool in Lake Waccamaw. In his spare time, Thompson likes to ride motorcycles and hang out with his friends. 

“We realized the need some years ago for us to be able to invest in our young people in the county, and Tyler is a prime example of that,” said Cameron Council, vice president of administration. “A lot of things we do are specialized and takes years to master – something that doesn’t happen in a few weeks or months. Finding the right person who is willing to invest in that time is not easy, and Tyler, we love having you.”     

In addition to the recognition of seven apprentices, Columbus County Schools signed its Teacher and Teacher Assistant Apprenticeship agreements with SCC. CCS Superintendent Dr. Deanne Meadows said the apprenticeship agreement will help address the teacher shortage in Columbus County. 

“I believe we can grow our own and start when they’re in high school,” Meadows said. “We’re excited about this apprenticeship and seeing people coming back, coming into our schools, working with our students and working with our staff to develop them into excellent teachers.” 

SCC President Dr. Chris English concluded the signing event with describing it as a “total game changer” that will make a difference in the workforce pipeline created through apprenticeships.  

“We are about to take these apprenticeships to the next level with ACCESS,” English said. “As we bring on more industry partners like Council Tool, we’re going to grow and bring momentum.” 

Click here to view all photos