Kentucky High School Students get on TRACK in Manufacturing

Posted by Chad Aleshire - On November 05, 2013 (EST)

Submitted by Kentucky Deputy Commissioner of Labor Mike Donta

Pilot partnership

Dean Monarch deals with tools and machines; technical devices that can make precise cuts and perfect holes in most types of metal. He fastens a small piece of metal to a shiny machine and begins working on it with the skill of a surgeon, pausing for a moment to pick up a small brush and flick away fragments of steel.           

“Never use your hands,” he says. “The brush is the safe way to do it.”  

Monarch is an instructor at the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, where he helps students learn the skills they can apply to a promising career.  

The students are in the TRACK program, which stands for Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky. The program is a pilot partnership between the Office of Career and Technical Education and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. The goal is to provide pre-apprenticeship opportunities to secondary students.  

Rewarding careers  

This fall, thirteen high school technology centers in Kentucky are utilizing the program. Employers choose from the manufacturing courses at the schools to design the programs to fit what they need from their potential employees.  

After successful completion, the students will be awarded an industry certification by the employer through the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and all on-the-job hours worked will be counted toward an apprenticeship. The certification will also count toward the local school district’s college and career ready accountability index. There are no costs involved except to the employer for wages paid to the student/employee.            

“One of the biggest things students don’t realize is the financial impact that going through an industrial program can have,” says Monarch. “Our students can start out making between $13 and $14 an hour, and within four years be making $25-$28 an hour. That’s almost $60,000 a year.”  

Mike Donta, Deputy Commissioner with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, says there are over 1,200 apprenticeable occupations recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. High school students enrolled in the TRACK program can prepare themselves for one of those many careers in advanced manufacturing and avoid the cost of student loans.            

“Often apprenticeships are viewed as an alternative to college, but really in today’s environment, most programs require classroom instruction,” says Donta. “The advantage is that students enrolled in apprenticeship programs are not accumulating any student debt, and instead they’re receiving a paycheck while they learn.”  

A “win-win” 

Kenny Whitworth, president of Whitworth Tool, says that the TRACK program helps students and employers, because it allows companies to work with the training centers to provide the specific skills and training needed. The companies know they will be able to hire qualified workers, and the students benefit from high-paying and rewarding jobs.           

“For schools to work with industry, it’s a win-win,” says Whitworth, “both for the student and the employer.  We’ve found that students who come out of the program have strong skills, a core work ethic, and they are always on the move and really in love with the trade,” says Kim Brewer, director of human resources for Atlas Machine and Supply, a participant in the partnership. “They want to do well and they know this is where they want to be.  There has been an exodus, it seems, of people wanting to get into skilled trades,” says Dennis Hannah, vice president and general manager of Atlas Machine and Supply. “So the jobs are out there. And with the pre-apprenticeship in TRACK, we can focus on exactly what students need and they will advance a lot faster than they would have without this program.”  

Bringing education and industry together

At the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center, Mr. Monarch sees how the program will help lead students to successful careers. 

“The pre-apprenticeship program not only gets students involved, but gets industry engaged in helping our educational process,” he says. “The program has been very beneficial in that it connects students with our industries and prepares them for the world of work -- all while providing industry with a quality employee.” 

Tom Thompson, Breckinridge County ATC principal, says the TRACK program will help the center meet its goals under Kentucky’s College and Career Readiness Delivery Plan.  The TRACK program is just another step in that college and career readiness model, and I think we have got it right,” he says. 

This program will be available to all high school technology centers for fall 2014. Manufacturing companies can get the process started by registering for an apprenticeship program. Contact Mike Donta at the Kentucky Labor Cabinet at or call 502-564-1520 for more information. 

To find out how to get involved with a local or state technology center, contact Mary Taylor at 502-564-4286 or via email at An informational website can be found by clicking on the TRACK logo at            

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Modified On : November 05, 2013
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