Austin Holland is a full-time, paid apprentice at Kathleen’s Frito-Lay plant by day and an industrial mechanics college student two nights a week.
The 2016 Veterans High School graduate completed the automotive pathway at Houston County Career Academy, which opened the door for him to receive on-the-job experience and a college education in a high-demand career.
A new, two-year industrial maintenance program at the Career Academy will allow other students to follow in Holland’s footsteps. Three years in the making, the program is a partnership involving the school, Houston County Board of Education, Central Georgia Technical College and Frito-Lay.
The first class of 24 is now being recruited for the 2017-18 year, said principal Sabrina Phelps. Juniors and seniors in the program will be able to fulfill high school requirements and earn college credit through Georgia’s Move On When Ready program.
The curriculum covers industrial mechanics, fluid power and piping systems, and electric motors and control systems. Tools and machines in the school’s lab are small-scale replicas of what’s used at the Frito-Lay plant, said Craig Hoffman, Frito-Lay’s director of maintenance and engineering.
Students will learn basic engineering and maintenance skills and become comfortable with the equipment. Frito-Lay technicians will visit the school, and students will also go to the plant.
After completing the Career Academy program, students are eligible to apply for a paid Frito-Lay apprenticeship, said Gregg Roden, Frito-Lay’s supply chain senior vice president. If selected, they will be paired with a mentor at the plant and work toward their associate degree at Central Georgia Technical College. Their education is paid for through the Strategic Industries Workforce Industry Grant and HOPE grant, according to Frito-Lay officials.
“It gives the students at the high schools in the county the opportunity to develop their skills for a career path in the future,” Roden said. “By getting exposure to a company like Frito-lay, we’ll give them the skills that are necessary for them to operate on our equipment.”
This is the first time Frito-Lay has worked with a high school, and the company hopes to replicate the program in other areas, he said. It’s an opportunity for students to start developing their career path early on.
Houston County Superintendent Mark Scott said the program will enhance offerings to students and play a contributing role in workforce development. It will serve as a model for the state — and nation.
“This is a great opportunity for out students, our community and our state. We believe in supporting our students and getting them ready for the world of work,” Phelps said.
The Kathleen plant is one of Frito-Lay’s largest and most accomplished, and the Career Academy’s industrial maintenance program ensures there will be a pipeline of skilled workers coming in, Roden said.
But whether students work for Frito-Lay or another manufacturer, they’ll have sought-after skills for their future. There’s a high demand for industrial maintenance training, as Frito-Lay and many other manufacturers are in need of skilled workers, Phelps said.