In today’s changing job market, the ability to find adequately trained skilled trades workers is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Of course, many human resource managers would tell people the needle is easier to find.

For ABB in South Boston, the needle they found was a partnership program developed by Southside Virginia Community College, ABB, Halifax County High School and the Department of Labor - Apprenticeship.

So what is this new program?

Actually, apprenticeship is a seasoned, effective model for skills training, but this new program at ABB focuses on high school apprenticeship.

Today, more high schools are offering skills training for immediate job placement upon graduation. The partnership between SVCC - dual enrollment program, which awards the college credit, and Halifax County High School, CTE program is invaluable in terms of investment — the investment the students make in choosing to apply themselves and learn a skilled trade that will allow them to reap a lifetime of rewards, according to program partners.

The rewards have started for two HCHS seniors, Isaiah Witcher and Nelson Conner. Excitedly, they accepted offers to start working for ABB as welding apprentices, said Dawn Baker, ABB human resources manager.

Next, they signed Department of Labor apprenticeship paperwork, which starts the process for them to earn a nationally recognized DOL certification upon completion of their on-the-job training.

The future for these two is looking up, program partners said.

Witcher’s big grin says it all as he exclaimed, “A welding career is something I have wanted to do for a long time.”

Conner explained his new work experience saying, “I just want to learn more, and I enjoy working at a place that appreciates me.”

ABB’s partnership in this program is invaluable. Their flexibility to allow the two seniors to attend school during the day and work for ABB in the afternoon makes this program doable.

“Both Conner and Witcher were trained their junior year at the local high school, earning dual-enrollment college credits for education,” said Debra Woltz, HCHS CTE coordinator.

In the fall, both Witcher and Conner plan to continue their educational training with Southside Virginia Community College, with the goal of earning their associate degree.

In evaluating workforce-training programs, this youth apprenticeship process checks off so many boxes of success -- success for the student, success for the employer and success for Halifax County, said Kelly Arnold, apprentice coordinator for Southside Virginia Community College.

“This is the first program we have started in this area, and I am hopeful that what ABB has implemented will replicate throughout Southside Virginia. Our youth are the workforce of tomorrow. Seeing these young men making a positive impact to our local workforce is encouraging. While needles in a haystack are hard to find, it appears that ABB has found two needles in the haystack,” Arnold added.