Education

Every Monday and Friday, Deaven McCombs gets up at 4 a.m. to catch a TARC bus to get to his manufacturing job at GE Appliances on time. Tuesday through Thursday, he takes his core academic classes at Doss High. He’s a senior, with a career ahead of him.

The Academies of Louisville career and technical program at JCPS helped McCombs become a certified production technician.

“I plan to use it to get a welding certification or forklift certification, because if I can get those I can travel anywhere and have a good stable job,” McCombs said.

He said he’s been curious about manufacturing since early on in high school.

Doss High senior Deaven McCombs shows off a robot he's been programming in the school's new manufacturing lab.Liz Schlemmer | wfpl.org

Doss High senior Deaven McCombs shows off a robot he’s been programming in the school’s new manufacturing lab.

“I always like to get my hands dirty and actually do instead of just sit at a desk and write paperwork,” McCombs said. “I’d always fall asleep if I had that type of job.”

McCombs helped pioneer the manufacturing pathway at Doss High his sophomore year. This week, he cut the ribbon on a new training line and manufacturing lab in his school. The new lab is just one example of how the Academies of Louisville program is putting students on paths to their careers. 

Doss High Manufacturing Lab Mirrors Training At GE Appliances

GE Appliances donated almost $500,000 in equipment and time to put up the permanent training demo at Doss High, where a dozen students can work together on a factory line.

Students drill fasteners into parts, just like McCombs did when he started orientation at GE as part of the company’s GEA2DAY program, a part-time on-the-job training. 

Doss High student Ben Schnell operates a GE Appliances assembly training line in the school's manufacturing lab.Liz Schlemmer | wfpl.org

Doss High student Ben Schnell operates a GE Appliances assembly training line in the school’s manufacturing lab.

“It’s exactly like the one they have at GE — it’s almost the exact same line,” McCombs said.

Greg Ash is the Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Instructor at Doss High. He partnered with GE employees to coordinate construction in his lab and to bring in guest speakers for his students.

“I can tell them this is what employers are looking for and this is what skills you need, but when the employer walks in and says ‘This is what we’re looking for and this is what we need,’ then they listen,” Ash said.

Before Ash became a teacher, he spent years working in operations at a number of manufacturers. As a teacher, sometimes he dispels myths about what manufacturing looks like.

“I think when a lot of people hear manufacturing, they think dark, dirty, sweaty, hard, low-pay — which is furthest thing from the truth,” Ash said.

He says conditions “aren’t what they used to be,” and there are plenty of high-paying jobs in the industry. 

“You may start on a line, or you may start as an apprentice, but from there, there’s worlds of opportunities available,” Ash said. “The world is their oyster at that point.”

He even put up a bulletin board outside his classroom that says: Instead of going to college to get a job, get a job to go to college.

JCPS’s Academies Of Louisville Helps Students Get Their Feet In The Door

The certification Deaven McCombs has already completed could land him a job that pays about 15 to 16 dollars an hour. And he says the program also got him interested in robotics, coding and design. 

His classmate Ghadi Nshimiyimana aspires to be an engineer at GE. Nshimiyimana’s summer internship at GE Appliances — where he excelled and never missed a day — helped him get his foot in the door.

That’s what JCPS’s Academies of Louisville program tries to do for students in a variety of career pathways. The program’s district-wide coordinator Christy Rogers helped revamp the Academies of Louisville in 2016, and now there are career pathways in fifteen schools across JCPS. Students participate in small learning communities, with teams of career teachers and content teachers in subjects like English and math, to blend their technical education with their basic classes to fulfill graduation requirements.

“This is a college and career prep program to help kids find a life,” Rogers said.

The Academies of Louisville career and technical education programs offer a range of options, from nursing to graphic design to engineering and manufacturing. Schools partner with different industries to build their programs and connect students to employers. 

Deaven McCombs demonstrates a virtual reality training module.Liz Schlemmer | wfpl.org

Deaven McCombs demonstrates a virtual reality training module.

McCombs said he wishes more students realized the manufacturing track was available to them.

“The manufacturing trade always needs more workers. You’ll always have a job if you’re in this trade,” McCombs said. “And for people who aren’t sure really what they want to do, if you have this in your back pocket, it’s a really good thing to have.”

After this, McCombs is sure exactly what he wants to do and has a clear blueprint to get there.