Mebane native Ben Barr completed grade school under his own roof, but he never thought his next step would be working in a global machining company while taking free college classes.
“Before I heard about apprenticeship, I didn’t have any definite plans for after high school,” he recalled.
He was interested in going to a four-year school for engineering, but finding out about the Career Accelerator Program altered his course.
“It seemed like a great opportunity to get real-world information while learning about technology in an applicable way,” he said. “I saw it as a way to jumpstart my career.”
Ben’s parents, his primary teachers for the last 17 years, were very supportive of the idea.
“They didn’t push me one way or another, but they agreed that apprenticeship was a great opportunity.”
Ben said that going through the application and orientation process was nerve-wracking.
“It was really easy to get involved and very exciting to have the opportunity…but it wasn’t a sure thing.”
He waited patiently and learned that he had secured a position with GKN Driveline — a worldwide auto parts manufacturer for driveline systems.
“The group I’m working with at GKN has been incredibly welcoming,” he said. “I immediately felt like a part of the team and like I was contributing valuable work to the company.”
Ben works with the GKN maintenance group, repairing machines that need work as well as conducting preventive maintenance tasks. He is also involved with special projects which involve making and adding new parts to machines.
While the hands-on experience is beneficial to Ben, he considers his team mates one of the most valuable parts of his apprenticeship.
“Working with people that have experience gives me the chance to ask questions and draw off of their knowledge.”
Ben says the program is well structured, allowing for success in work and school. “The way they integrate the college courses into the program is well-paced,” he explained. “It isn’t overwhelming and is a great way to go through the classes.”
Ben is still on the fence about pursuing a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering after he completes his apprenticeship.
“I know that if I do go to a four-year college that I’ll have a leg up on other incoming classmates, as my experience is directly applicable.”
And, if Ben decides to come back to GKN to build his career, the company offers tuition reimbursement.
“I truly believe that going into an apprenticeship was a better way of going into a career than just simply going to school,” he explained. “Being able to see how things are actually done is invaluable, especially when compared to simply hearing about it in a class.”