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Community Cohort Stories

Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) Is Building A Talent Pipeline For Years to Come

Currently, 35 different Guilford County companies provide apprenticeship positions through the GAP program with tracks for accounting, advanced manufacturing, automotive, electrical, HVAC, IT and cybersecurity, mechatronics, pharmacy tech, and supply chain and logistics. Photo from Guilford Apprenticeship Partners

This story was written as a part of our community spotlight series pertaining to the 2023 Talent First Economics Community Cohort. The GAP program is one of Guilford County’s many innovative approaches that was discussed at the “Jobs of the Future: Guilford County Workforce Action Meeting” in High Point on Tuesday, March 20.

Since their inaugural signing ceremony in August 2016, the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) program has provided approximately 100 Guilford County high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to “earn and learn” by gaining paid work experience while receiving their associates degree on full scholarship. 

Students who complete the four-year apprenticeship program graduate with a full-time job offer in hand and the option to take their credits in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. GAP was able to secure funding from the state legislature to completely cover community college tuition for students who signed on while in high school. 

Currently, 35 different Guilford County companies provide apprenticeship positions through the program with tracks for accounting, advanced manufacturing, automotive, electrical, HVAC, IT and cybersecurity, mechatronics, pharmacy tech, and supply chain and logistics. 

The origins of the GAP program go back to 2013 when Donna Newton, former director of Workforce Initiatives with the Community Foundation for Greater Greensboro (CFGG), wanted to do something about the lack of young talent prepared to replace advanced manufacturers as they retired from the workforce. 

Through a collaborative effort across four Guilford County public high schools, Guilford Technical Community College and four advanced manufacturing companies, Newton was able to create the first class of 14 student apprentices. 

“It was really innovative at the time,” said GAP Director Ann Flynt, noting how paying for both wages and community college tuition was a large financial commitment. Flynt said that this leap of faith was necessary in order to incentivize young people to join the program.

The program has proven to be popular. Since that first group of 14 students, GAP has grown to include 175 students who are currently in different phases of their apprenticeships. More than 300 applications were received during the most recent cycle, with slots available for just 60 students. 

“It’s the most popular youth apprenticeship program in the state of North Carolina,” said Flynt. “It’s been a super successful talent pipeline because we’re getting some of these bright, motivated youth here to stay in Guilford County.” Furthermore, the program is helping close the labor gap within high-demand technical industries. 

The success of the GAP program further inspired the creation of the Eastern Triad Workforce Initiative, a four-county collaborative effort also directed by Flynt to increase the talent pipeline. These programs include RockATOP (Rockingham County), CAP (Alamance County) and Apprenticeship Randolph (Randolph County). 

Reengaging the Workforce

The GAP program has also had significant impacts on the current workforce, which has been a pleasant surprise according to Flynt. Company employees are embracing their new roles as mentors, creating positive changes in workplace culture. Some mentors have even delayed retirement so they can see their company’s apprentice complete their program.

“It has reinvigorated the workforce,” said Flynt. “Employees are excited to teach someone else some of the things they have learned. They want to pass on their skill set.” 

In turn, the apprentices have also taught some things to the veteran employees. For example, apprentices with Lincoln Financial have taught veteran employees how to navigate technology more efficiently. An apprentice in manufacturing was also teaching their mentor an easier way to program a machine. 

“These students are really amazing in what they’re able to do,” said Flynt.


One young woman that stands out to Flynt is an apprentice with a local HVAC company; one of a handful of women in a male-dominated workplace. Despite her small stature, this young high schooler has quickly become a “superstar” at the company, adored by both her coworkers and customers. 

“They say she is the most asked-for person that they have out in the field because everyone loves her,” said Flynt. 

This young woman is not only earning a good income, but her HVAC company was able to help her acquire insurance, a driver’s license and a car because she didn’t have transportation. Moreover, she was able to move her family out of a trailer and into more secure housing. 

“GAP is really changing lives,” said Flynt. “Some of these students either wouldn’t have the opportunity, or they might get there, but it’d be a whole lot bumpier.”

Flynt continues to be inspired everyday by GAP’s impact on Guilford County students, local businesses, and the overall talent pipeline. As more tech trade industry continues to move into the region, Flynt wants to ensure that Guilford County has enough local superstar talent ready to fill those job opportunities.