STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Skilled to Work: "Tiger Launch" offers apprenticeship-style experience to high school students

The program began at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester through Hartselle High School.

Posted: Mar 7, 2019 11:06 AM
Updated: Mar 12, 2019 11:13 AM

As manufacturing continues to grow in Alabama, companies like Sonoco in Hartselle are consistently on the lookout for new employees.

The international company’s Hartselle plant produces industrial products for packing like reels and spools among other items. They are they largest industrial employer in Hartselle with roughly 300 people on their workforce.

Tiger Launch information:

  • Busche
    • 2018 - 6 students
    • 2019 - TBD
  • Cerro Wire
    • 2018 - 4 students
    • 2019 - 8 students
  • Sonoco
    • 2018 - 8 students
    • 2019 - 16 students
Students from Hartselle High School work on an assembly line that was installed in a former storage facility for the junior high school. Students from Hartselle High School work on an assembly line that was installed in a former storage facility for the junior high school.

Plant Manager Todd Whatley said in order to continue their success though, they need to be able to reach younger people.

“It’s going to be vital to our area as we continue to expand, not only just our company and business, but also we have new manufacturers coming in,” said Whatley.

That’s why Sonoco along with Bushe and Cerro Wire partnered with Hartselle City Schools for their new apprenticeship-style program called “Tiger Launch.”

HCS Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones told WAAY 31 that the program addresses a key need in the community.

“In north Alabama, you know, we’re constantly being told that there’s a limited pool of students. And so we wanted to grow and help our workforce development,” said Dr. Jones.

The program began at the start of the 2018-2019 school year and is now in its second semester. The 18 students involved start their day with some core classes and learn about workplace safety and etiquette before heading off to work around 1 p.m.

“It’s really an apprenticeship program. They’re getting firsthand, manufacturing experience,” said instructor Jeff Hyche.

Hyche is the former principal of Hartselle High School and returned after leaving that position to oversee the Tiger Launch program.

Students start with a base salary of $10 per hour, but the companies can increase that depending on performance. Hyche said the model is like the “12 for Life” program in Florence City Schools.

“It's real life. This is real life work. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you’re no longer employed. If you do excellent work, you may get a bump and get a raise,” said Hyche.

Whatley told WAAY 31 that having the 12 for Life program as a comparison helped Sonoco feel more at ease coming on board with Tiger Launch.

“One of our customers in the Florence area has some experience with the same thing and having some comfort with that, we were able to just talk through some risk management pieces with our company and we were able to get things going pretty good,” said Whatley.

The program is offered to juniors and seniors who are at least 17-years-old. Senior Nicholas Young said he was working at a fast food restaurant before joining the program. Now, he plans to stay with Sonoco while he goes to college.

“It’s real good work experience and it’ll get you, maybe you’ll know what you want to do in the future with it. And I took that opportunity and I love it,” said Young.

Hartselle City Schools said they are excited by the programs success in its first year. They said they are not only expanding the number of students in the fall, but they are also adding a morning section to accommodate students who want to participate in after-school activities and sports.

They are also starting to look beyond just manufacturing.

"That was our initial focus. But we know that there’s a great need in the building and construction industry and that’s another area where we’re looking at,” said Hyche.

As of now, no new companies have been confirmed. But Whatley said from what they’re seeing, everyone involved is benefitting.

“They get to learn the discipline that it takes to really be successful in the workplace while we on the other hand have an opportunity to understand our incoming workforce and how we can apply our learning to what we’re doing in our facilities to make improvements,” said Whatley.

School officials said they’re also working with some Morgan County schools to allow their students to join Tiger Launch as well.

Huntsville/Madison
Mostly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 39°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 43°
Huntsville/Madison
Mostly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 39°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 47°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 443009

Reported Deaths: 6662
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson649101007
Mobile31746574
Madison28413217
Tuscaloosa21566275
Montgomery20088332
Shelby19452132
Baldwin17333189
Lee13261107
Morgan12678142
Etowah12141181
Calhoun11555206
Marshall10487123
Houston9031164
Limestone838181
Cullman8296124
Elmore8243110
Lauderdale7946107
DeKalb7900107
St. Clair7876130
Talladega6523112
Walker6050183
Jackson603245
Colbert558194
Blount548586
Autauga540762
Coffee466964
Dale412785
Franklin377550
Russell358415
Chilton346873
Covington340880
Escambia339244
Tallapoosa3163109
Dallas313696
Chambers305470
Clarke303336
Pike265231
Lawrence255855
Marion254661
Winston234742
Bibb222948
Geneva213047
Marengo210531
Pickens200431
Hale186144
Barbour183438
Fayette178829
Butler174860
Cherokee166031
Henry160025
Monroe152621
Randolph146636
Washington142727
Clay130746
Crenshaw124845
Macon122837
Cleburne122125
Lamar120622
Lowndes116836
Wilcox108322
Bullock104628
Perry100518
Conecuh98022
Sumter90627
Greene77923
Coosa64018
Choctaw52124
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 710427

Reported Deaths: 8970
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby790251186
Davidson73248697
Knox40335452
Hamilton35983347
Rutherford34271298
Unassigned23946140
Williamson22259150
Sumner18862237
Out of TN1644883
Montgomery15200153
Wilson14878167
Sullivan13002221
Blount12382136
Washington12206206
Maury11337131
Bradley11263101
Sevier10877123
Putnam10200152
Madison9364186
Robertson793088
Hamblen7261119
Anderson7031116
Greene6779117
Tipton639571
Coffee578584
Gibson5767117
Dickson559082
Cumberland556777
Bedford546092
Roane536083
McMinn524674
Lawrence524369
Carter5215121
Warren511656
Loudon510352
Jefferson497078
Dyer487487
Monroe471964
Hawkins461473
Franklin426067
Fayette415953
Obion406683
Rhea391858
Lincoln388347
Cocke359063
Marshall358140
Cheatham350332
Weakley345948
Campbell338742
Henderson338659
Giles334476
Carroll318362
White317749
Hardeman315854
Hardin306650
Lauderdale299934
Macon294751
Wayne270325
Henry269960
Overton260546
McNairy249042
DeKalb247443
Haywood245650
Marion236233
Smith235430
Trousdale230617
Scott230432
Claiborne230033
Hickman229836
Fentress217835
Grainger217240
Johnson205335
Morgan196616
Crockett183738
Chester179039
Bledsoe178211
Unicoi170147
Cannon161721
Lake158522
Polk150517
Decatur149027
Union145725
Grundy143622
Sequatchie142120
Humphreys137717
Benton134135
Lewis131121
Meigs119216
Stewart112220
Jackson106624
Clay96526
Perry96325
Houston95226
Moore8319
Pickett69220
Van Buren6758
Hancock4227

Community Events