Blake Wyatt just graduated from high school, but he's already taking big strides in the world of work.
Thanks to his new job at Georgia Metals in Danielsville, the 2023 Madison County High School graduate is earning a solid paycheck, an accomplishment not all young adults can claim so soon after high school.
"It was nice, real nice," said Blake, regarding his first paycheck from the family-owned company that specializes in manufacturing quality metal construction products. "It feels like I'm more independent now."
Blake also got a nice kickstart to his career with a "Workforce Development Grant" from HireSmart Cares, which helped him buy quality work boots, an essential part of his gear.
Blake's swift transition into the workforce is in line with HireSmart's mission: to help young people move straight into gainful employment after high school, avoiding the trap of deep college debt without a plan to pay it off. Blake shows that a good income and financial stability are achievable directly after high school.
The recent graduate emphasizes how much he's already learned in his young career.
"I've expanded my knowledge," he said. "I learned what measurements I need to know. I learned to cut metal more. I've learned a little painting here and there, and they've taught me a lot of new tools."
Blake, who studied welding at Madison County High School, has learned about "metal inert gas" (MIG) welding, but he wants to master "tungsten inert gas" (TIG) welding to advance his career.
"I want to go to Athens Tech to learn TIG welding and major in business," he said. "TIG welding jobs are among the best paying in the industry. If you can master it, you're guaranteed a spot at most any job."
Blake is also setting long-term financial goals. He recently opened a CD banking account for retirement and is saving for a truck.
The 18-year-old finds balance in his life through outdoor activities, enjoying fishing, dove hunting, and playing ball with his friends.
HireSmart celebrates the success of young professionals like Blake and aims to inspire more students to follow a similar path.
Blake said he appreciates the support from HireSmart.
"It really did help," he said. "I didn't have too much money set aside (before the job), and I was going to have to borrow money, but the grant helped me get some work boots."
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