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Caleb Richardson Workshop

Caleb Richardson is an Advertising & Graphic Design student and is a registered apprenticeship. [Photo by Brad Losh]

When Caleb Richardson switched programs at FTCC from electrical engineering to graphic design, he knew immediately he made the right choice.

“It felt like I was in the right place,” Richardson said.

Now, Richardson is hitting his stride in the Advertising and Graphic Design program and earning valuable work experience through a registered apprenticeship.

Richardson had always loved drawing and art, spending hours doodling and adorning the walls of his bedroom with pictures of his favorite superheroes.

But when he graduated high school in 2018 with plenty of interests, he opted to enter the rigorous program of electric engineering and leave creative expressions among his hobbies

He faced a long road through electrical engineering and needed to play catch-up in some areas of the curriculum.

“Because of the way my high school schedule was, I hadn’t had a math class in a year,” Richardson said. “It was going to take me a long time just to get into what I actually wanted to do in electrical engineering.”

Caleb Richardson Apprenticeship

Caleb Richardson leads a workshop during a Graphic Design class. [Photo by Brad Losh]

Rather than plod through that program, Caleb wanted something that would allow him to start exercising his skills right away.

“My mom said, ‘You’ve always been passionate about art. Why don’t you pursue that as a career?’” Richardson said.

He made the switch to graphic design, and wasted no time putting his skills to use in the real world, taking on an apprenticeship at Cumberland Coffee Roasters, a locally owned coffee shop and wholesale business.

Through the NC Apprenticeship program, local employers hire students to be paid employees while being formally trained on the job. The resulting relationship is mutually beneficial, with employees gaining valuable on-the-job learning and employers strengthening their ready-to-work pipeline.

To qualify as a registered apprenticeship, the opportunity must include on-the-job training and related instruction in the classroom, and it must last a minimum of one year or 2,000 hours.

Cumberland Coffee Roasters owner Juan Guadalupe learned about the apprenticeship opportunity at a 1 Million Cups Fayetteville meeting, which is held monthly at FTCC.

“I needed someone who understood the technical aspect of using the programs, rather than the art side of it,” Guadalupe said. “I’m providing the art ideas, effectively, because I’m saying this is what I want done. I needed someone with the technical skills to be able to do that in Photoshop or Illustrator, and Caleb had those skills when I hired him.”

Guadalupe reviewed Richardson’s work and interviewed him before hiring him. He discovered that Richardson’s skills met his needs and that taking on an apprentice was the right fit for his budget.

“The students obviously have a certain level of skill already because they’ve already been in the program. They’re not just starting out,” Guadalupe said. “If you’re going to hire an established graphic designer, you’re going to pay established graphic designer prices. So if I want to get the benefit of someone who is still learning but competent enough to do the work that I need, then I can work with that.”

Caleb Richardson Apprenticeship Summit

Caleb Richardson speaks at an Apprenticeship Summit at FTCC in November 2023. [Photo by Natasha Brown]

Richardson has created print materials, graphics for the website and designs for apparel for Cumberland Coffee Roasters.

In addition to honing his skills and expanding his portfolio, the apprenticeship has allowed Richardson the opportunity to figure out what kind of work environment he enjoys most.

Turns out, he’d rather be collaborating on ideas, whether it be with Guadalupe at Cumberland Coffee Roasters or with his classmates. He recently led an interactive workshop for his fellow students on creating composite images in Photoshop.

“Freelance gives you the most control over your schedule and the work you do, and that sounded great on paper,” Richardson said. “But once I started working with Juan, I realized that working from home is not as much fun for me.

“In class, if I have an idea, I can just throw it out there and see what my friends think of it,” he said. “I like the collaborative work environment.”

Are you an employer interested in taking on a registered apprentice? Contact apprenticeship coordinator Nore Brantley at