Taking a Different Path: Jacksonville’s NJATC

By: Brianna Barlett and Sam Kindler

Senior year of high school is supposed to be one of the best years of your life. But for those uncertain of what comes next, it can leave one with a feeling of dread as the year presses on. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Students who know that college isn’t the best option for their futures now have a new opportunity through the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, NJATC.

The NJATC, is a five- year apprenticeship trade-school program focused on equipping
individuals to become licensed journeymen at the end of the program. Traditionally, for acceptance into the program, you must have a high school diploma or GED. However, those attending Baker County High School have a unique opportunity to complete the first year of the trade school during their senior year.

For students like Will Vickers, the decision to seize the opportunity took no time at all.

“I was guaranteed a good, solid job after school with great benefits,” Vickers said. “My
grandpa was an electrician too, so I know it is a great career.”

Vickers graduated from Baker County High School in May of 2018. Just two weeks later he was working full time for Miller Electric.

Now, Vickers is a second-year apprentice. In addition to working a forty-hour week, he is
responsible for going to school 2 nights a week for 3 hours.

The apprenticeship program uses a blended learning approach for their teaching style: completing online homework using various textbooks, reviewing those lessons in class with your teacher, and hands-on lab training to learn select skills.

For high school seniors taking their first year, the experience is different than others. These students do not work their first year in the apprenticeship, and are taught five days a week for one hour each session by a high school teacher that is trained on the material.

“It’s nice that we don’t have to work full time just yet, it gives us time to get our feet wet with the material before going out there,” said Jaxon Burnsed, a senior at Baker County High School beginning his first year of the program.”

Daniel Van Sickle, apprenticeship director, would like to begin this program in other high
schools.

“We’re raising up new electricians, and the trade always needs those,” he said.