Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Southern Spear Ironworks owner Sean Compton, left, and supervisor Paul Parrish, back, look on as Howard High School senior Breanna Scoggins signs on to work as an apprentice at the company on Tuesday.

Amid the turmoil of election politics this week, I saw bona fide, Grade A hope in the pages of the TFP on Wednesday.

It was not in the comic pages or the sports section.

Tucked between the political dramas of the day and the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic, nestled between coverage of financial aid from governments and Alabama football greatness, was a vision of how public education and private business can work together.

Stripped across the top of the TFP business section was a story by reporter Mary Fortune who shared details of an apprenticeship program that will help some high school students forge a prosperous future.

Southern Spear Ironworks partnered with The Howard School to form the apprentice program that launched Tuesday with Howard student Breanna Scoggins becoming the first student enrolled.

According to the story, Scoggins will get hands-on learning opportunities, starting with her supervisor Paul Parrish and with any number of the quality assurance experts on the Southern Spear roster. She eventually, Parrish said, will get fully trained and certified as a welder.

This is great news, gang.

These types of partnerships and programs are needed now more than ever.

As Southern Spear founder Sean Compton told Fortune, "There's not enough people doing the technical training. We want to get these kids a good skill."

Good skills indeed. Beyond that, welding is in demand — Compton said he would hire 10 more full-time folks right now if he had qualified candidates — and generates a livable wage from the start.

What Southern Spear developed takes Howard's Future Ready Institute of Welding and Robotics to the next level.

Other companies here have joined with the school system's Future Ready Institute initiative to teach students skills that will launch their careers. Students and companies benefit.

It's the kind of solution that fosters real change and opens opportunity for students. With the cost of a four-year college education out of reach for many and crushing student loan debt throttling the financial health of an entire generation, these practical, technical training programs will graduate students with the skills employers covet.

That's the path Scoggins is already on, and the path that future Southern Spear apprentices will be, too.

It's an iron-strong solution.

Contact Jay Greeson at

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Jay Greeson