NEWNAN, Ga. – Cities like Augusta with a concentration of manufacturing jobs are expected to duplicate a German-style apprenticeship program launched Monday in one Atlanta suburb.

What’s different is it lasts three years instead of the two years common in Georgia companies today. Germany annually trains 1.5 million apprentices who start at age 15. Their youth unemployment rate is about half that of the United States.

Students here will start as high-school sophomores, be dual enrolled there and in a technical college, earn $8 per hour and receive on-the-job training at a company. By the time they’re seniors, they’ll be earning $12 per hour.

At completion they’ll have a high-school diploma, a college associate’s degree and a German apprenticeship certificate honored internationally and a job paying $40,000.

Oh, and the college degree will be tuition-free. Little wonder that 20 students are competing for the first 11 slots. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle helped clear some bureaucratic roadblocks for the

program when he championed Senate Bill 2 that became law last year. “Before this could be replicated across the state, we have to plant the seed. Guess what, we’re planting the seed today,” he said.

His comments came during a ceremony marking the launch of the country’s first, German-style apprenticeship class in the Newnan-Coweta County School System. It started there because the general manager of German manufacturer Grenzebach Corp.’s local factory, Martin Pleyer, wasn’t completely satisfied at the end of the existing two-year apprenticeship.

Although he hired an apprentice, he wanted a “real” apprenticeship, he said.

He sought help from the German-American Chamber of Commerce which is establishing similar programs in 40 places around the world. “I just have the recipe and the ingredients. They are going to have to make the meal now,” said Stefanie Jehlitschka of the chamber.

Georgia has 431 German companies across the state providing 23,000 jobs. Cagle expects them to push their communities to establish apprenticeships. But then, only half of the eight companies participating in the Newnan program are German.

The lieutenant governor also predicted that news of the nation’s only European apprenticeship will lead other companies to locate their factories in Georgia.


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