Wallace State Community College’s Center for Career and Workforce Development celebrated the newest student cohort enrolled in the Mercedes-Benz Tech Co-Op program at a special ceremony on Tuesday.
Saul Sanchez, Ceana Compton, Justin Reliford, Steven Smith and Austin Bennett --- all Automotive Service Technology students at Wallace State --- make up the latest apprentices in the program.
“This is an exciting time for Mercedes-Benz International and our continued partnership with Wallace State. I look forward to seeing what these students can do at our facility. They are learning from and working on the best vehicles in the world,” said Steve Colburn, Organizational Development Specialist and Student Training Program coordinator at Mercedes-Benz. “There is no telling where this opportunity can take these students. I tell the Co-Op students to never underestimate their potential for growth and leadership in our company.”
This week is National Apprenticeship Week as recognized by the Department of Labor, and the college’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz International is among multiple apprenticeship opportunities available for Wallace State students.
“We have a wonderful partnership with Mercedes-Benz through this program and it opens doors for students that they might not have ever dreamed about,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “We’re proud of each student and delighted you have this opportunity.”
Through the program, students complete semester coursework at Wallace State during the fall and spring semesters and work full-time at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance throughout the summer semesters, earning pay and college course credit simultaneously. Students work two summers at the facility as apprentices. Tuition assistance is provided to students based upon their current GPA’s and their eligible for full-time employment with the company upon completion of the program.
The cohort recognized completed their first summer at the facility in August.
Compton, the lone female recognized, spotted the Mercedes-Benz apprenticeship opportunity while scrolling through the Wallace State website, and it immediately piqued her interest.
“It’s honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in my eyes, and something not all colleges offer. Both Wallace State and Mercedes-Benz are close-knit families, and it’s a great way to earn money as a college student,” said Compton, 19, of Hartselle.
Reliford, of Arab, wasn’t sure of his career path until he visited Wallace State for a Lions’ Pride orientation session. A visit to the Automotive Service Technology facility changed that.
“I was excited to apply for the Merdeces-Benz program and was nervous to check my email to see if I had made the cut,” said Reliford, 18. “This has opened new doors for me and exceeded my expectations.”
Wallace State's inaugural Mercedes-Benz cohort was also recognized. The group consists of Adam Carney, Dylan Krohe, Jorge Perez, Roberto Perez, Kade Thompkins and Rick Wilkerson.
Wilkerson was named the inaugural Wallace State Mercedes Co-Op 2019-2020 Student of the Year.
Colburn was recognized as the WSCC 2019-2020 Work-Based Learning Partner of the Year.
Jamie Blackmon, Wallace State’s Director for the Center for Career and Workforce Development, was the event’s moderator.
Wes Rakestraw, Wallace State’s Dean of Applied Technologies, closed the ceremony. Representatives of the Alabama Community College System were in attendance in addition to the students’ families.
The partnership was launched between Wallace State and Mercedes-Benz in December 2018.