Publish Date

Three students sit at a table with a tablecloth that says Blue Ridge Power.

High school students (left to right) Ryan Vega, Dylan Webb, Isaiah Winfree-Stevens, and Wade Manire (not pictured) will work as registered apprentices at Blue Ridge Power after completing the company Power-Up Academy pre-apprenticeship through FTCC. [Brad Losh photo]

Four students are heading straight from their high school graduation into a career in clean energy, thanks to a partnership between FTCC, Cumberland County Schools, and Blue Ridge Power.

Wade Manire, Dylan Webb, Isaiah Winfree-Stevens and Ryan Vega were part of the second cohort to finish Blue Ridge Power’s Power-Up Academy pre-apprenticeship program.

The program trains students to work in the fast-growing solar construction industry through classroom learning and on-site training at Blue Ridge Power’s site.

After completing the course in May and graduating from their respective high schools this month, the four will start paid, registered apprenticeships with Blue Ridge Power this summer.

Fourteen students in all completed the pre-apprenticeship course last month. The 16-week course is a part of FTCC’s High School Connections offerings, which allow local high school students to take college classes for free during their regular school day.

Winfree-Stevens first learned about the program from his school counselor at Seventy-First High School.

“She told me that there were a bunch of benefits with it — the starting pay, that it’s a growing company, that it’s an industry of the future, there’s some travel in it,” Winfree-Stevens said. “It’s a job that, if I don’t know what I want to do as a career, it’s something that I can start off with.”

Manire was introduced to the pre-apprenticeship opportunity when his Cape Fear High School class took a field trip to Blue Ridge Power.

The chance to work in a growing, clean energy industry caught his attention.

“I was interested in it because it was a new, growing job that could help reduce fossil fuels in the environment,” he said. “And I knew I could make good money working there.”

FTCC and Blue Ridge Power solar construction ceremony 2024
Fourteen students completed the Power-Up Academy pre-apprenticeship program, a partnership between FTCC, Blue Ridge Power and Cumberland County Schools, in May 2024. Four of those students signed on to continue the Power-Up Academy program through registered apprenticeships at Blue Ridge Power. [Photos by Brad Losh]
« of 18 »

During the 120-hour solar power construction course, students learn the basics of solar component construction and erosion control installation, as well as general workforce training that includes HR training and earning their certifications in OSHA 10, CPR and flagging.

The program is available to high school seniors. After completing the program and graduating high school, students have the option to start a registered apprenticeship with Blue Ridge Power or continue their studies using the college credits they earned at FTCC.

Students in this year’s class are pursuing degrees in engineering, project management and construction management.

“We are grateful for the partnership and collaboration between Blue Ridge Power, FTCC and Cumberland County Schools for this program,” said Lee Spruill, Blue Ridge Power’s director of learning and development. “Congratulations to our high school seniors for completing the pre-apprenticeship requirements.

“Their dedication and hard work have paved the way for a bright future in our registered apprenticeship program, where their journey to professional success truly begins.”


About Blue Ridge Power and Cumberland County Schools

Blue Ridge Power, headquartered in Asheville, is a clean energy infrastructure construction company for solar projects across the United States. Cumberland County Schools, the fifth-largest public school system in North Carolina, serves over 50,000 students.

About Fayetteville Technical Community College

Fayetteville Technical Community College is the third-largest community college in North Carolina, serving over 28,000 students annually through a wide variety of online and face-to-face programs. FTCC students can quickly learn credentials needed for high-demand, high-paying jobs and for associate degrees, diplomas and certificates that can lead directly to employment or be used to transfer to a 4-year institution.