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Newport Independent Schools Launches Apprenticeship Program with Sims-Lohman

After Harold "Pete" Hamblin graduated from Newport High School in 2018, he enrolled at The University of Louisville. But he quickly discovered that pursuing a four-year degree was a path he did not want to take.

"I tried college, but it just didn't work out," said Hamblin, 19, of Newport.

What did work out was a new apprenticeship program the Newport Independent Schools have launched with Sims-Lohman, a regional distributor of kitchen cabinets, granite countertops and bathroom fixtures. Hamblin is now working as an installer apprentice, earning money and learning a career.

"I love it," Hamblin said. "The job is so much more interesting and rewarding than I would have imagined. Sims-Lohman took me from the ground up, giving me the opportunity and experience I need to be successful. It's not every day that a career opportunity smacks you in the face."

The apprenticeship program is part of the Newport schools' mission of developing career pathways that prepare students for the future while connecting local employers with students after they graduate.

"Students are automatically more engaged when they see the connection between school and future jobs within their communities," said Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Kelly Middleton. "I am excited about growing this partnership as Sims-Lohman will be sending their people to our high school to speak with our students, some of whom will have the opportunity to tour the plant. Ultimately, our students will even have long term career opportunities."

Sims-Lohman has a robust apprenticeship program. There are currently 57 apprentices working throughout the company, said CEO Steve Steinman.

"The most powerful thing in business for me is to watch young people develop and learn new skills and new opportunities that can help them achieve their goals and take care of their families," Steinman said. "At Sims-Lohman, we are dedicated to finding ways to allow young people to reach their full potential."

Steinman said that often, apprentices become long term employees.

"We also benefit greatly from the program," Steinman said. "With labor shortages in the marketplace, our apprentices are learning and growing within our culture and often become some of our top performers."

Newport launched its program after a group of teachers and guidance counselors visited Sims-Lohman and learned about the skills the company looks for in potential employees. Harold Davis, who oversees the Construction Technology Pathway Program at Newport High School, recommended Hamblin for the Sims-Lohman apprenticeship.

"When I had Pete in class, he showed a great aptitude for working with hands and using carpentry and other tools," Davis said. "He was a top notch student. I knew he was looking for a job and a career opportunity. So when I learned about the apprenticeship program at Sims-Lohman, I knew he would be a good fit."

"The partnership between Sims-Lohman and Newport Independent Schools benefits both organizations," Middleton said. "Newport continues to model its mission and vision of preparing students for the future, while Sims-Lohman has an opportunity to reach into a local community and find prepared talent."

Steinman said the company is extremely happy with Hamblin and will "absolutely" offer future apprenticeships to Newport students.

"Right now we have apprentices working in our granite facility and as installers and sales apprentices," Steinman said. "All of those positions provide apprentices with the opportunity to develop the skills that can lead to solid jobs with benefits."