Area students matched with employers through apprenticeship showcase

Photos by Shawn Nowlin
Mark Jones, Supervisor of Career and Technical Education for Roanoke County Public Schools, answering a parent’s question.

Shawn Nowlin

Craig County, Salem City and Roanoke County Public Schools are all committed to providing students with resources to help them once they graduate with their diploma.

Students from almost every high school throughout the Roanoke Valley gathered at the Green Ridge Recreation Center on January 16 to partake in a student registered apprenticeship showcase. Among the businesses in attendance were G&H Contracting, Medeco Security Locks and Graham White Manufacturing.

The purpose of the Student Registered Apprenticeship Showcase, according to Mark Jones, was to link students interested in potential long-term careers with employers who are thinking ‘outside the box’ to fill critical needs in their workforce. As the Supervisor of Career and Technical Education for Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS), Jones is responsible for overseeing all areas of business, marketing, family and consumer science as well as trade and industrial education.

“Employers are looking for a pipeline of young talent to fill vacancies in their companies, often caused by the emerging ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retiring workers. When these long-time employees leave, there is not only the physical absence of a worker, but also a loss of knowledge gained from years of experience,” Jones said.  “An apprenticeship gives students the opportunity to learn from these experienced workers and gain the upper hand in the workforce.”

Marlene Sanchez and her son Tony, a high school junior.

Unlike an internship, which is typically part-time, a student-registered apprenticeship is a full-time, paid employment opportunity that usually allows students to earn college credits. Director of Career and Technical Education Jason Suhr was asked several times on January 16 what the difference is between the two.

“A student who is fortunate to be chosen by a company will then work with their school counselor and the business to work out a schedule that will allow the student to work during part of the school day,” Suhr said. “A Signing Day is being planned in late April for new apprentices to ‘sign’ with the company much like an athlete would sign with a college for a scholarship.”

Tony Sanchez, a high school junior, said he attended the event because “it’s always a good idea to take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.” His mother, Marlene, says the student registeredapprenticeship showcase was circled on the calendar for weeks.

Rob Leonard, who is the Director of Safety and Education for F&S Building Innovations, understands that providing students with work-based learning helps promote their ability to make informed decisions about their post high school career.

“These events work to dispel the stigma and myths that have developed around the trades for decades. It also gives direct, quick access to students and their parents to a wide variety of business and their respective high-value career opportunities,” Leonard said.

Over 400 students and parents attended the student registered apprenticeship showcase.

He continued, “the push for college in the last few decades has improperly placed many workers into occupations or careers where they are not happy and therefore not thriving. This is going to continue to have economic consequences as the occupations requiring college degrees are highly competitive and unfortunately, many workers with college degrees are unemployed or underemployed.”

Before the end of February, every company that participated in last Thursday’s event is expected to hold an Open House for students and their families. For more information about the Student Registered ApprenticeshipProgram, visit

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