Youth apprenticeship program opens door to the trades for Racine student

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A youth apprenticeship program is helping soon-to-be high school graduates find a career in the trades, like masonry and carpentry. 

On Friday, Jan. 21, one student at Horlick High School in Racine was signed on to the job. 

Jamarion Cooks was chosen to work for CG Schmidt as a pre-apprentice. 

Cooks is still a senior in high school, but he'll spend his mornings on the job site and his afternoons back in the classroom. 

"It feels great knowing that they're helping, pushing and trying to see my full potential," said Cooks. 

With support from the local carpenters union, his new employer CG Schmidt, and his mom, Cooks has everything he needs for his first day on the job.

"Trying to not cry, but I'm very proud of him, said Sharon Mcnir, Cooks' mom.

Steve Flores, with CG Schmidt, works with construction programs at local schools to help students get into the trades. He says there are many misperceptions about the field of carpentry and other construction jobs, and getting into it can be a process students don't understand. 

"They really don't know how to get into, so I walk them through each step. So I take that on personally, to help the apprentices get to that process."

But for many students like Cooks, it provides a career without having to go to a four-year college. 

"I won't just be doing carpentry. I'll be doing demolition, and if I'm not feeling carpentry I can switch over to masonry," said Cooks. 

Once Cooks graduates he'll be able to apply for a full apprenticeship, and his work now will count towards his time needed.

He'll start by making $16 per hour. That's 46 percent of the salary he'll make once he completes a full apprenticeship.

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