These students are guaranteed a job of $ 70,000 after graduation from university

A new apprenticeship program in Jersey City offers a solution to help students avoid crushing student debt: free tuition and the promise of a $ 70,000 job upon graduation from college.

The Jersey City government, a city’s high-tech manufacturing company, and two colleges have developed a partnership to provide jobs for a group of high school graduates while they attend college part-time. The five students, who will be in the inaugural apprenticeship class, will begin working for the Jersey City company, Eastern Millwork, in July.

Inspired by the German apprenticeship system, the five-year program will have students work on-site at Eastern Millwork three days a week, where they will train to become engineers. They will take classes twice a week, one day at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City. On the second day, they will participate in an interactive class at Eastern Millwork, where they will be taught remotely by professors from Kansas-based Pittsburg State University. Each year their salary will increase and when they graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the state of Pittsburg, their salary will reach $ 70,000.

Paul Weeks, left, chats with Andrew Campbell, president of Eastern Millwork, at the company’s office in Jersey City, NJ


Tyler Blint-Welsh / The Wall Street Journal

Andrew Campbell, president of Eastern Millwork, said the program is a response to his company’s inability to find college graduates with the right skills for his business, which uses automation and robotics to create and install custom woodwork for clients such as Goldman Sachs..

“This is a business transaction,” he said. “The children work for me, their job is to go to school. And I think that makes it more efficient.

Mr. Campbell said he has worked closely with the two colleges to develop a curriculum and will spend around $ 30,000 on each student’s education over the five years. Students will receive medical benefits and a salary starting at $ 24,500.

“This is the best way to manage the affordability of universities, instead of giving these kids loans and having them graduate without a job,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

Nationally, student loan debt stands at nearly $ 1.5 trillion, and the average New Jersey student has a loan balance of $ 37,370, the sixth highest average in the United States. United, according to Experian, a consumer credit reporting company.

18-year-old Amber Gutierrez originally planned to study computer science at Hudson County Community College. She developed an interest in technology while attending Union City High School through a gifted and talented program. But she didn’t want to go into debt. After applying to college last fall, she heard about apprenticeship at Eastern Millwork in December through her high school counselor. She learned that she had been accepted into an apprenticeship in March.

“I knew that once I graduated from high school my main goal would be to take care of myself,” she said. “This opportunity gives me the opportunity to do it. “

Public colleges and for-profit universities joining with businesses to develop degree programs is not uncommon. The idea that graduates would then be hired by the same company, however, is what sets Jersey City’s apprenticeship program apart, said David Staley, an expert on innovation in higher education.

Mr Staley said he sees programs similar to this becoming more mainstream, but expressed concern that they could limit the opportunities for self-discovery that make college valuable to many. “This transactional experience is one that basically says I pay you money, you certify my skills, and I’m basically the same person plus skills,” he said. “The most important philosophers on higher education have always emphasized that higher education, whatever it is, should be transformational. I don’t see that necessarily happening in this model.

A machine operator works at the Eastern Millwork plant in Jersey City, NJ


Tyler Blint-Welsh / The Wall Street Journal

Andrew Klenke, chair of the Pittsburg State Technology and Workforce Learning program, said he hopes the program will help develop a talent pool for Eastern Millwork. However, for the program to be sustainable for his university in the long run, he said other companies will eventually need to join.

Mr Klenke and Mr Campbell said discussions were underway to involve companies based in California and Florida, but no deal has been reached.

Paul Weeks, 19, said he initially planned to go to college but chose the apprenticeship program instead. The Saint Peter’s Prep graduate said he got a 1330 on the SAT and applied to Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City and Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. But he said the benefits of a traditional college experience don’t outweigh the cost of student loans, especially as he watches some of his family work to pay off their own debt.

“The most important question about college aside from ‘Do you like this college?’ it’s ‘How much is that?’ It’s hovering over everyone’s heads, ”he said.

Corrections and amplifications
Hudson County Community College is one of the schools participating in a new learning program in Jersey City. An earlier version of this article mistakenly called it Hudson Valley Community College. (June 12, 2019)

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