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Young woman who can weld among latest 'graduates' of Crown apprenticeship program

About the time they and their classmates were graduating from high school, three LCPS seniors were “graduating” from a nationally recognized apprentice program with Crown Equipment that has moved them farther down the road to a well-paying job.

With Crown Equipment plant manager Rob Burgin, left, on hand for a ‘graduation’ celebration at the Kinston plant, HR Director Rose Mary Jones introduces the three graduating seniors who recently completed Crown’s year-long apprenticeship program – from left, Ismael Espino of Kinston High and Jordan Howard and Cassidy Dumont of South Lenoir High School

Cassidy Dumont and Jordan Howard of South Lenoir High School and Ismael Espino of Kinston High School wrapped up the year-long program in June and, with their Crown experience as an anchor, are heading out into the wider world – Ismael to pursue his interest in auto mechanics, Jordan to attend N.C. State University as an engineering student and Cassidy, the program’s first female apprentice, to join Crown’s Kinston workforce as a welder.

“Crown is excited to recognize these individuals for completing the high school apprentice program,” plant manager Rob Burgin said at a celebration of the students’ “graduation” earlier this month at the Crown facility. “This year, again, we had a really outstanding group."

At that event, in front of LCPS administrators and Crown managers and apprenticeship mentors, Cassidy signed on for work that could earn her more than $50,000 a year, according to Rose Mary Jones, human resources director at the Kinston facility.

“This is just the beginning of your career journey. We always tell employees that where they go with your career at Crown is totally up to them. Crown is a success story of hiring and promoting from within,” Jones told Cassidy.

In the fifth year of the partnership between Crown and Lenoir County Public Schools, 13 students have completed the program and six are currently working at Crown full-time, earning between $51,000 and $64,000 a year. Five more students from South Lenoir and North Lenoir high schools came aboard in June as the next class of apprentices.

Cassidy Dumont, the first female apprentice in the five years of Crown’s partnership with LCPS, signs an offer agreement that secures her a full-time position as a welder at the Kinston plant. Looking on is Bobby Hatcher, a mentor in the apprentice program.

“These students are the future of Crown and the Kinston community,” Jones said. “Their talents, work ethic and dedication to their trade are remarkable. We are so appreciative of these students and honored that they chose the Crown apprenticeship program as the entry point to developing their career path.”

Crown pioneered the program with LCPS in 2019 and, after Covid paused it for a year in 2020, the two partners picked up where they left off – to the benefit not only of students but also to the scope of the school district’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) program, designed to help students identify potential careers and to develop job skills.

Students who complete the apprenticeship program are guaranteed an offer of employment and can continue – tuition free – to hone their skills as students at Lenoir Community College with the goal of earning an associate degree in their trade and journeyman certification.

“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities that our long-standing partnership with Crown Equipment Corporation affords our students,” Amy Jones, the district’s director of high school education and CTE, said.

“Year after year, students experience a real-world work place setting at one of our premier manufacturing businesses here in Lenoir County. One of the hallmarks of the program is the mentorship the Crown employees provide to the youth apprentices which allows them to learn on-the-job skills in real time with the support of an experienced mentor. We want to congratulate our students and Crown Equipment Corporation for another successful cycle of youth apprenticeship.”

LCPS superintendent Brent Williams called the program “a real blessing for your young people. It’s a blessing of opportunity, which I think is among the greatest blessings that we can have.”