Last year, during his son’s senior graduation ceremony at WCHS, John Haydon – President of RAME Contracting observed something that surprised him. As seniors were accepting their diplomas and walking across the stage, their future plans were being identified. As senior after senior walked across the stage, there was a common announcement, “After graduation, John Doe is entering the work force!”
For several years before this graduation ceremony, Mr. Haydon, as well as most of the construction industry, had been dealing with an unprecedented skilled-labor shortage which caused frustration within his own company. Team members complained about needing more workers, especially in skilled positions.
Was this shortage a result of the Great Recession’s record levels of unemployment, the industry’s veterans leaving the workforce, or high-school graduates not being interested in blue-collar jobs? While these and other factors led to the shortage, Mr. Haydon knew that something needed to change to assist the industry as a whole. Not only did the industry need a shot-in-the arm but also the education system could use another career pathway for their students.
So how could this be a win-win for the industry and the education system? How could the High Schools, specifically the Area Technology Centers, educate students in regard to alternative career pathways? How could the industry train young adults to be successful in the construction industry? These are the questions that Mr. Haydon began asking himself. He then began researching and collaborating with KY Dept. of Labor, Marion-Nelson-Adair-Taylor County School Systems, Heavy Equipment Suppliers, and other heavy civil construction companies. The overwhelming research pointed in one direction:
After nearly six months of researching, planning, organizing, building, etc., Mr. Haydon came to the conclusion that he needed to hire a person that would coordinate the Apprentice Program. So, in November of 2017, Mr. Haydon hired Brandon Wilson as the Recruiting & Apprentice Coordinator. On January 22, 2018 the Kentucky Labor Cabinet approved Rame Contracting as a “Registered Apprenticeship Program for ‘Heavy Equipment Operator’ and ‘Heavy Equipment Mechanic’.”
Once the approval came in from the state, Mr. Haydon and Mr. Wilson started visiting students at Marion and Nelson County Area Technology Centers and at Taylor County High School.
Taylor County High School Principal Laura Benningfield, College and Career Readiness Counselor Lindsey McPherson, and Guidance Counselor Keith Benningfield met with Mr. Haydon and Mr. Wilson, encouraged students to attend informational meetings, invited RAME to their Future Readiness Fair, and in general attempted to remove any obstacles that might exist to students learning about and participating in a Heavy Industrial Equipment apprenticeship program.
Approximately 140-150 students were informed about Rame Contracting, Heavy Civil Construction Industry, Apprenticeship Opportunities, and Career Pathways that are offered in the field. Immediately after the presentations, students were offered the Apprenticeship Application. Several students from all three schools submitted the application to enroll in the program. From those applications, a few students were chosen to complete the next phase which consisted of an essay as to why that student wants to enter the program. After review of the essays, 6 students were selected to participate in a formal interview at Rame Contracting Headquarters. At the conclusion of the interviews, 3 students were chosen to enter the final phase of the application process. This phase consists of the students working in the field from June to August to adjust themselves to the industry, safety standards, and work ethic of Rame Contracting. In August, the students will begin their apprenticeship program.
Taylor County High School wants to encourage as many students as possible to pursue quality apprenticeship opportunities. When Taylor County Junior, Frank Bladen, was accepted into the RAME apprenticeship program, a special signing ceremony was held in front of the entire student body so that all students could see the types of opportunities that are out there and the level of excellence that they need to demonstrate in order to be a part of a competitive apprenticeship program. With examples like Frank and the students from Marion and Nelson County accepted into the program, each year more and more students will express interest in apprenticeships.
- Frank Bladen Jr. – Junior – Taylor County High School (Heavy Equipment Mechanic)
May 21, 2018