When young adults start applying for jobs, they are often discouraged by the realization that they need both education and experience to get a foot in the door. That won’t be a concern for Levi Simons, Morehead High School student and apprentice at Pine Hall Brick. As he pursues a career in automation, Levi brings both hands-on experience and meaningful education to the table.
“I first heard about the Rockingham Apprenticeship and Technical Opportunities Partnership (RockATOP) program from my high school engineering teacher, Mr. Dooley,” Levi explained. “When I learned more about it, I just couldn’t turn it down.”
RockATOP is a registered youth apprenticeship program, offering skilled training that allows students to work toward a college degree while earning income.
Levi had a loose plan to pursue a degree in computer science after high school, but he has discovered a new passion for the field of automation. His apprenticeship with Pine Hall Brick is opening doors he never imagined.
“As an automation technician I help maintain the automation processes in the manufacturing lines,” he explained. “I get to work with the robotics and pneumatic systems, and I am getting the electrical training I need to be able to work with these systems more in-depth in the future.”
Levi is also getting mechanical training with various types of metal and machining tools, and he will eventually receive hands-on training with the technology used to monitor and assess various systems within the company.
While he once thought he would be entering the IT field, he is no longer interested.
“I plan to stay on at Pine Hall for the foreseeable future and build a career there,” he explained. “My apprenticeship has also inspired me to pursue teaching in the community college setting at some point.”
When asked about the top benefits of the apprenticeship program, Levi had a long list.
“In high school, you get out after a half-day and get to go to work, which is fun,” he said. “You also get paid while in high school.”
Upon completion of the program, Levi wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in automation. When he does, he’ll graduate with more than a piece of paper — he’ll have years of real-world experience in his field.
“Through RockATOP, I’ve learned how to talk to people in a professional setting, how to have a successful job interview, and how to handle personal finance.”
He said the process was a little stressful at times because it was so different from the typical high school experience, but he highly recommends it.
“My advice to other high school students is to do everything you can to get into this program because it’s a great opportunity.”
The support Levi has received has been vital to his success.
He has Mr. Dooley and Ms. Hensley, his high school Career Development Coordinator, to thank for inspiring him to apply and answering questions along the way. During his apprenticeship at Pine Hall, HR Manager Nancy Tulloch-Moore and Levi’s boss, Stanley Bowman, have played active roles in his learning and growth.
The journey has been, in Levi’s words, “more than worth it.” He had no idea that he would come out of high school with a plan for his education in automation, work experience, and invaluable connections, but thanks to apprenticeship, his future looks bright.