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Torch 180 students became paid apprentices through innovative partnership

An innovative partnership between state agencies and a local nonprofit will provide paid internships for culinary students.

At a ceremony Thursday at Torch 180 in Fowlerville, three students of the culinary training program were made apprentices through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship.  The apprenticeship for Professional Cook is sponsored by Michigan Career Technical Institute (MCTI) in Plainwell, for the Statewide Apprenticeship Expansion (SAE) grants provided by the MIchigan Dept. Of Labor an Economic Opportunity (LEO) which offers paid apprenticeships for different occupations.

Torch 180 is the very first apprenticeship program that has been activated under the SAE grants, as well as the first custom competency-based culinary program.

MCTI’s Brian Smith called the agreement “historic and groundbreaking” and noted that the event drew a “solid turnout” including a representative from Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin’s office, who presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition to each student.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Workforce Development from Lansing, and the US Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship from Washington D.C., were also present for the actual signing of each apprentice’s formal documents.

Torch 180 co-founder Rhonda Callahan signed the employer agreement to provide a competency-based Professional Cook Registered Apprentice Program sponsored by MCTI and the two will work together to abide by the U.S. DOL rules and terms of the apprenticeships.

The three students; Blake Clay, Shaun Gillespie, and Vikram Durci, then each signed their official applications for the program.

Callahan said Torch 180 was asked several years ago if the program could potentially lend itself to offering a paid apprenticeship program.

“At that time, I didn’t really know what that might entail, but I try to jump on new opportunities to show what our students can do,” she said. “It’s been quite a journey getting to this day, but I’m proud of Blake and Vik and Shaun, and I’m looking forward to watching them learn and grow as we move forward.”

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