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Carrier Transicold Helps Georgia Youth Through Great Promise Partnership

At Carrier Transicold’s Athens, Ga., plant, Great Promise Partnership program participant Naomy Huaman, a senior from Clarke Central High School, prepares insulation for trailer refrigeration units while Supervisor Cedric Richardson offers support.
At Carrier Transicold’s Athens, Ga., plant, Great Promise Partnership program participant Naomy Huaman, a senior from Clarke Central High School, prepares insulation for trailer refrigeration units while Supervisor Cedric Richardson offers support.

​At Carrier Transicold’s Athens, Ga., operation, a commitment to help local teens at risk of not graduating from high school is providing them with real-world work experience while giving employees one-to-one mentoring opportunities─ a combination showing “promising” results for the plant and community.

This year, the plant joined the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Great Promise Partnership, a program that enables businesses to help students through workplace skills development and goal achievement. Students who commit to continuing their education are promised support that helps them prepare for the workforce, or furthering their education or military service after graduation.

Carrier Transicold’s student participants, who range in age from 16 to 18, attend classes for half a day and work the other half in regular positions on the production floor, helping to build subassemblies for the industry-leading truck and trailer refrigeration systems made at the Athens site. The students are paid competitive wages and receive work-study credits, while developing valuable skills.

The plant’s first six student employees started in January, and all graduated in the spring. Over the summer, another five Great Promise Partnership juniors and seniors started at the facility, with plans to hire another seven students in the fall.

“We considered the opportunity to participate in the program an ideal fit with our commitment to supporting the community, as well as doing our part in developing the workforce of tomorrow,” said Matt Walker, Plant Manager, Carrier Transicold, who first learned of the program through a local manufacturing roundtable meeting in 2014. “I’m proud that our employees have embraced this program and taken the opportunity to engage with students at multiple levels from being a mentor to a co-worker helping the students develop their skills.”

“The need in Georgia is very real,” Walker said. “Although the national high school dropout rate has been declining for decades, Georgia has one of the lower high school graduation rates in the country. Our program participants could easily have added to those statistics, but instead they earned their diplomas. We’re helping to make a difference. The program participants are able to fill roles in the factory and use their skills to add value to the operation while they are learning – what a great ‘win-win.’”

To participate in the Great Promise Partnership, students must be at least 16, eligible for free or reduced school lunches and be identified by their school counselors as at risk of not graduating due to poor grades, problems at home or other detrimental factors.

“These are not troublemakers,” explains Emily Michelbach, Manager, Human Resources, Carrier Transicold. “They are good kids that just had a bad deal handed to them. Most are very much involved with their families. They are choosing to come here and work half a day and go to school half a day. It’s a partnership between us, the schools and their families.”

With that in mind, the Athens operation held a kick-off presentation at the plant last December and again this summer for student recruits, their families, employees, school officials and local government representatives.

Employees have really embraced this program, some taking on unofficial mentoring roles for the students. “It’s a point of pride for the plant,” Michelbach said, “because we’re doing what’s best for our community, which in turn helps our employees.”

Karen Bond, an assembler and 28-year employee, worked alongside one of the women students from the program in the spring. “I really enjoyed it,” she said, explaining that since working in a factory is a completely new experience for the students, it takes extra patience to help them learn the job.

“Every young person deserves a chance,” Bond said. “So many companies say, ‘We can’t hire you because you don’t have experience.’ Well, we’re giving them the experience. And I think that’s awesome.”

It’s also rewarding for the students. “We’re training good workers who really have pride in what they're doing and have pride in the company,” said Michelbach. “They love to go out and tell their friends, I work at Carrier Transicold. That’s really cool for a 16-year-old kid to be able to say.”