Name: Darius Ray
College: Alamance Community College.
High School: Eastern Alamance High School, Class of 2019
Hometown: Mebane, N.C.
Company: Glen Raven, Inc., in Burlington, N.C.
Job Role: Electro-Mechanical Apprentice, Second Year
When Darius Ray was finishing up his senior year at Eastern Alamance High School, he attended an information session about the local apprenticeship program, Alamance County’s Career Accelerator Program (CAP), and he started seeing possibilities. He learned he could earn his associate degree from Alamance Community College (ACC) at no cost (tution, fees, and books are all covered) while, at the same time, get a head start on a career in mechatronics earning a steady paycheck and benefits.
“CAP and ACC walked us through everything that would be needed and what you can use it for when you’re getting into the real world,” says Darius. “They demonstrated the machines and the robots, and it felt like something I could do…so I followed through with it.”
Today, Darius is a second year apprentice at Glen Raven, Inc., a textile company in Burlington, and he’s on track to graduate from ACC in 2023 with an associate degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology. When he graduates, he’ll have a full-time job at Glen Raven, four years of job experience already under his belt, an associate degree in an in-demand field, and zero debt.
As an apprentice, Darius is responsible for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, hands-on electrical work, repair work, and operating machinery. He’s able to apply what he’s learning at ACC to the work he’s doing at the company, and vice versa. “There happened to be a problem at work, an air line, and I was able to contribute a lot towards fixing the problem because of what I was learning in school at the time,” says Darius. “It felt really good and made me realize the benefits of being in the program.”
Through on-the-job training and managing his newfound responsibilities, Darius is a lot more confident and a lot less shy. “Around this time when I first started, I was a little hesitant to work on machines; I was scared that I might mess up something,” he says. “It kind of took me a while, but I would say about four or five months into the program, I really started to pick up on a lot of things. I started learning and interacting with a lot more people, and learning how to go about working on machines and the steps I need to take.”
Throughout his apprenticeship, Darius has made valuable connections. There is another, more senior apprentice at Glen Raven and the camaraderie has been helpful. “We work together on a lot of projects and troubleshoot a lot together. It’s actually a huge help to have somebody else in the program with you and guide you throughout the process. I’m grateful for that.”
For students considering CAP, Darius shares, “You will have a lot more experience than somebody who wasn’t able to go through the program. The four years you were going through school and working, somebody else was maybe just doing school and working at a different job that had nothing to do with the actual field that they’re planning on going into.”
Darius advises interested students to keep pushing forward. “Go for it, be consistent, and put in the effort, especially if you have to choose between paying for your education and having it paid for you,” he encourages. “You get a headstart on what you really want to do in life and you’ll learn so much along the way.”