VALDOSTA — Wiregrass Georgia Technical College held a not-so-typical signing day. 

Instead of signing for a college sport team, student Walter Rogers signed onto a full-time job at the Cass Burch dealership.

The partnership between Cass Burch and Wiregrass’ automotive technician program is part of an ongoing initiative to bring more apprenticeships to its students.

“We know a lot of local employers have needs and positions to fill,” said Bill Tillman, director of economic development. “Instead of waiting until they graduate to get hired, we can go ahead and get them out there in a full-time position. They’re learning on-the-job skills that the employer agrees to teach them.”

Rogers signed paperwork to officially begin his apprenticeship at Cass Burch, where he will learn to work on cars.

Still a student at Wiregrass, he doesn’t graduate until May 2020.

Getting his foot in the door at Cass Burch not only builds his skillset before graduation, he said, it can guarantee him a job after graduation.

“This is awesome for me,” Rogers said. “I did not expect this to happen. When you go to school, you want to make sure your degree is going to get you a job when you get out. The fact you can get a job while also being in school and secure that job when you graduate, that’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Cass Burch, owner of the dealership, said his dealership and several others will benefit from partnering with Wiregrass because they need employees to remain in these fields.

“We recognize an opportunity to partner with Wiregrass ... to try to help get people back and integrated in this opportunity,” Burch said.

Tillman said Wiregrass wants to expand apprenticeships to other dealerships and even other industries in need of future employees — mostly technical and industrial type of programs.

“We hope this is the first of many,” Tillman said.

Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.

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