Jeremiah Weaver marched across the graduation stage in May and took his high school diploma in hand. Soon, he had a sizable paycheck in his possession, too.
The 18-year-old Madison County High School graduate is working nights at Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment.
"I like it," he said. "It's something new. We build upper frames for the 308 excavators."
Jeremiah got a financial boost before he started his Caterpillar career with a "Workforce Development Grant" from HireSmart Cares that provided funds for quality work boots.
"They're good boots," he said. "I wear them eight hours a day, every day."
Jeremiah says each shift starts with a safety meeting.
"And then you go set up your area, and you build your part, which is your upper frame, and weld everything together, and then you push it through a robot," he said. "There's a post where you build the part and tack everything together, and you take the part that you tacked together and put it in the robot, and the robot does the full welds onto the part."
The recent graduate, who was introduced to welding at Madison County High School by ag teacher Joshua Daniels, says Caterpillar provides a lot of opportunities for him, but he's planning to start his own welding company in a few years.
"There are a lot of ways you can move up at Caterpillar," he said. "But I'm going to start my own welding company. I want to go to Athens Tech to get my business degree. It will probably be about five years before I can (start my business) because I want to do it right and have enough money to start it the way I want to."
Jeremiah, who likes to hunt and fish, said it feels great to earn a living right out of high school.
"It’s a good paycheck, too,” he said. “The last one was $1,400 for two weeks.”
Jeremiah’s story is exactly what HireSmart Cares hopes to see: a young person introduced to a career skill in grade school and then making the most of that knowledge with a good-paying job after graduation. HireSmart funds numerous workforce development programs, grants, and scholarships to support young people in their quest to better themselves and their communities.