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Skilled to Work: Tiger Launch program in Hartselle doubles in student size in year two

Hartselle High School students along with a Sonoco employee work on a reel assembly line as part of the Tiger Launch program. This group was part of the first summer session.
Hartselle High School students along with a Sonoco employee work on a reel assembly line as part of the Tiger Launch program. This group was part of the first summer session.

The apprenticeship-style program launched in the fall of 2018 at Hartselle High School.

Posted: Aug 8, 2019 3:14 PM

Double the students, double the space. These are some of the changes that came with year two of the Tiger Launch program at Hartselle High School.

“A great program last year. We finished with about 18 students that completed the year with us. This year, we’re currently at 32 and we still have room for a little more growth,” said former principal and Tiger Launch Instructor Jeff Hyche.

Tiger Launch information:

Busche

  • 2018 - 6 students
  • 2019 - 1 student

Cerro Wire

  • 2018 - 4 students
  • 2019 - 8 students

Sonoco

  • 2018 - 8 students
  • 2019 - 24 students

Six of the 33 students enrolled this year are women, according to Instructor Jeff Hyche. Both Sonoco and Cerrowire hired graduates from last school year's Tiger Launch to work while continuing their education in college.

Hyche helped introduce the program at Hartselle High in the fall of 2018. It allows students to work for Busche, Cerrowire and Sonoco in Hartselle. He said the growth came from the latter two companies doubling down on their commitment to the program.

"Almost every one of our graduates had an opportunity at either of those companies to stay while they go onto school or while they continue their education. So that’s really what it’s all about,” said Hyche.

In fact, four students who graduated last school year, like Courtney Shaddrix, decided to stay with Sonoco as they start at Calhoun Community College.

After going through the program as a high school senior, Shaddrix made a hard left turn away from what she thought she would do professionally.

"It's just made me realize that instead of becoming a nurse, that the business side was more of my thing. I like working hands-on with everything, making the reels, touching the plugs and all that,” said Shaddrix.

The program also expanded beyond just Hartselle High. Two students from Morgan County Schools and two from Cullman Area Technology Academy are also participating.

Plant Manager Matthew Williams said one of the biggest changes for Sonoco was moving the students from the converted storage building on campus to a new facility that Sonoco leased specifically to house Tiger Launch students.

"I think it’s given us an opportunity to both give back to the community, but also grow our business and there’s not many opportunities where you get to do both of those in one project,” said Williams.

The new building not only afforded them more space for storage of the reels and plugs they make, but it also allowed them to assemble larger reels and do some recycling work.

Senior Gib Stafford is starting his second year in Tiger Launch this week. He was also part of the first group of students participating in the summer edition of the program.

"In the summer, you get 40-hour weeks, you get chances to work weekends, overtime, if you can. It's a good deal and it’s a good choice after a high school career, too,” said Stafford.

Year two of Tiger Launch also introduces morning sessions of the program from 7 to 10:30 a.m. in addition to the afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m.

Hyche hopes that more industries, like the construction trades, will soon come on board.

"Even if it’s just on a job site, cleaning up, carrying supplies, helping where they can, that’s getting them involved and seeing the industry and getting them involved in it,” said Hyche.

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