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Vt. students get hands-on learning for high-tech jobs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. students get hands-on learning for high-tech jobs

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MILTON, Vt. -

Nine students from area high schools have spent the past eight weeks learning about advanced manufacturing at Husky in Milton, a plant that makes machines that mold plastic. They ship machines all over the world. And the students are getting paid to do it.

"I had a lot of fun and I like doing it. We get to work with machines and build things," said Maggie Wheel, a senior at BFA Fairfax.

The Husky Summer Institute was developed in partnership with Vermont HITEC and funded through a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor.

"Intense education program to learn all about advance manufacturing. You get college credit, they get paid $10 an hour for the 40 hours a week that they are here and half the time, four hours they are in this classroom and getting the academics, and the other four hours they are on the floor getting hands-on real-world experience shadowing and performing the different responsibilities," said Gerry Ghazi of Vermont HITEC.

"I decided to do this because I am going into college for engineering, I got accepted in the dual enrollment program at VTC in Williston and I am in a program for electrical mechanical engineering," said Taylor Wensley, a senior at Milton High School.

Along with the eight hours a day, the program includes a lot of homework, up to four hours a night. Husky Machinist Ben Smith is one of the instructors.

"I am just impressed with their work ethic and the amount of time they have put into everything. This is a lot of work in a short amount of time and they did a phenomenal job with it," Smith said.

This is also a state approved pre-apprenticeship program. The students will get 320 hours toward a 4,000-hour apprenticeship.

This program is all about the future. Husky estimates within the next four to six years, 10-20 percent of their workforce will reach retirement age, and if they want to grow as a company they need to grow a workforce.

"For us and for them, it's not about the pay; it's about what the potential is. I think the best thing is they stand to finish this program and come to work for Husky, far and above what their peers are maybe in a similar situation graduating high school will probably ever make, so it's a great long-term opportunity. There are a lot of folks here that have made a career out of machining and that is what a lot of these students are going to be able to do," said Geoff Glaspie, the plant manager.

The students are well aware of the job potential.

"I'm hoping to work here once I graduate, yup. Hoping to get a job here and work over in assembly and be able to build the hot runners and do the work, that's what I am hoping to do," Wheel said.

Wherever these students decide to go, they take with them some impressive credentials.

"So they walk away with 17 college credits, about $3,200 in their pocket, they walk away with 320 hours toward an apprenticeship and exposure to the advanced manufacturing world," Ghazi said.

Husky and Vermont HITEC plan to continue the program next summer, inviting these students back for an advanced course, and welcoming in 10 new students to begin the cycle again.

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