One of the value propositions behind Career and Technical Education (CTE) in New Hampshire is to provide hands-on learning for high school students, an objective that often involves industry partners.

“We work with industry to create real work opportunities for students,” said Rich Paiva, Career Development Coordinator at Wilbur H. Palmer CTE Center, who helped launch an internship program in welding two years ago.

This program involves Spraying Systems Co. in Merrimack. 

“Before the pandemic, we had students tour their facility during Manufacturing Month in New Hampshire,” explained Paiva. “The students met the welders and were able to ask questions.”

One student, Shea Williams, found some answers.

“Between the program and the tour, he realized this was the career path for him,” said Paiva.

This realization led to a conversation with Joe Ruelas, Vice President Operations at Spraying Systems Co., and ApprenticeshipNH.

“We had to work out some details and how we could combine our program with the time spent at Spraying Systems so Shea could earn high school credits while over there,” explained Paiva. 

This creative arrangement enabled the hours Williams spent in the welding program to roll over into a full apprenticeship at Spraying Systems after he graduated from school last June.

“Spraying Systems is now sending him to Manchester Community College for an Associate’s degree,” Paiva said. “It is going great.”

Ruelas agreed.

“Shea has done very well for us,” he noted. “He has willingly accepted being trained on everything. He has a good work ethic and, most importantly, works well with others. He will one day be a good welder, hopefully, for our company.”

Citing his working relationship with Paiva as a big reason why Spraying Systems Co. developed apprenticeships, Ruelas said there are several advantages to creating them.

“One is to provide students the opportunity to learn a trade or skill in manufacturing,” he explained. “The other is to create and maintain a culture at our company of passing on knowledge to less experienced people and people who strive to learn more. The last one is to help improve the community.”

As for how his apprenticeship experience has been at Spraying Systems, Williams said it “has been awesome.”

“I am able to learn lots about my chosen trade of welding,” he said. “I am also being trained how to do many other procedures in manufacturing, such as sandblasting, pressure testing, and even some machining. I enjoy the company of my coworkers, and I enjoy the work I do.”

The experience for Williams is priceless.

“The best part of the apprenticeship is being able to get up in the morning and do something that I enjoy doing and can take pride in,” he said. “Welding is something that I enjoy putting a great deal of effort into, and being given the opportunity to learn and get job experience at the same time is something I am certainly grateful for.”

According to Paiva, Williams’ experience is “a textbook example of CTE.”

“We are here to help students explore career pathways, and Shea’s experience is possible through innovative partnerships with external stakeholders and industry,” he said. “Everyone benefits with CTE.”

Wilbur H. Palmer CTE Center is one of nearly two-dozen CTE centers throughout the state of New Hampshire.