Name: Jerry Mize
College: Randolph Community College
High School: Providence Grove High School, Class of 2020
Hometown: Liberty, N.C.
Company: Energizer, Asheboro, N.C.
Job Role: First-Year Apprentice
Through Apprenticeship Randolph, Jerry Mize is getting a headstart on a successful career in machining while earning his college degree at no cost.
Jerry is a first-year apprentice with the battery manufacturer Energizer. Through the youth apprenticeship program, he’s earning his associate degree for free from Randolph Community College—his tuition is covered by a state youth apprenticeship waiver, and his fees and books are covered by Energizer —while also earning a steady paycheck and benefits through his job at Energizer. Without the stress of mounting tuition debt, Jerry says, “I can actually enjoy college.”
Like all first-year apprentices, Jerry is learning about every aspect of Energizer’s business, switching roles in the plant every so often in an effort to experience all of the opportunities available. “Right now they have me as an operator,” says Jerry. “I was in the machine shop, and before the machine shop, I was in rebuild.”
The Right Direction
Jerry knew a four-year college was going to be too expensive. As his high school graduation was getting closer, he started thinking more about his future. “I was thinking about going straight to work or going into the military; I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “Then I remembered my career coordinator telling us about Apprenticeship Randolph. I went and attended one of their meetings and I thought maybe I can actually do this.”
Jerry originally wanted to pursue the automotive track, but the pandemic put that path out of easy reach. Looking back, that was a silver lining. He says, “I wasn’t originally interested in machining, but at Energizer, I actually enjoy it more than working in automotive.”
Jerry also recognizes that machinists are in high demand. He says, “Everybody that’s in machining, they’re getting closer to retiring and I was hoping I could fill that gap.”
Learning the Right Stuff
Jerry’s apprenticeship at Energizer is the first job he’s held while going to school. It was a tough adjustment, but he found his rhythm. It helps that he’s able to apply what he’s learning in the classroom to what he’s working on at Energizer.
“Anything I learn in school, I’m using it at work,” says Jerry. “And everything I learn at work, I end up using to get a headstart in school.”
Apprentices carry a lot of responsibility in their workplaces. They’re making decisions every day that affect everything from the product to the machinery to their fellow employees to the consumer. They have to be responsible and diligent in their work. “If you’re not careful, these machines can really hurt you,” says Jerry. “It helps you to grow up and develop more responsibility. You realize you have to be careful with what you’re doing because it can affect someone else, too. As long as you know what you’re doing and you pay attention, it can be really fun. I get to do something new every day.”
Making the Right Choices
Jerry’s career and college successes are having a positive snowball effect on other aspects of his life. Like all youth apprentices, he’s earning a steady paycheck with benefits well before his peers, and with that steady income comes the need to manage it. “I’ve learned to become much more responsible with my money since I’m paying for stuff myself now,” he says. “I realize the value of a dollar a lot better now.”
Jerry found a mentor in Travis Brook, a machinist at Energizer, who helped him better understand the whys. “He was really, really patient with me, which is awesome because he understood that this is stuff I’ve never worked with in my life,” says Jerry. “He really helped me learn and develop new skills. He doesn’t just teach me. He tries to get me to figure it out for myself so I can develop a better understanding of what I’m doing.”
In addition to learning new job skills, Jerry is grateful to Travis for passing along some sage advice, as well. “He actually got me into building credit and stuff; he’s the reason I have a new car now,” says Jerry. “As my mentor, he didn’t have to tell me anything. All he has to tell me is how to work the machines, but he also gives me a bunch of life lessons.”
The Next Right Thing
The apprenticeship program has meant significant personal growth for Jerry. “It’s made me think outside the box. It’s made me open to more experiences. And it definitely made me get out of my comfort zone.”
Jerry hopes students considering Apprenticeship Randolph will be open to those new experiences from the beginning. “Don’t be afraid like I was,” he says. “I was terrified of going to work because it’s a lot of responsibility all of a sudden. You kind of feel overwhelmed at first because you’re doing a bunch of stuff that you’re not used to, but it definitely gets easier.”