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August 10, 2023
August 10, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – Three young men who think spatially, and have loved to dismantle and reassemble things throughout their lives, are now among an elite group. The trio of tinkerers – David Ayoub, Ezeldein Elgamil, and Phoenix Overholser – recently earned positions in the coveted Hudson County Community College (HCCC) and Eastern Millwork, Inc. (EMI) Holz Technik Academy Apprenticeship Program. They signed employment agreements on July 6 at EMI in Jersey City.
The Holz Technik Apprenticeship program began in 2019 with a partnership forged between HCCC and EMI. The federally registered apprenticeship program is open to just a handful of high school graduates every year, and new hires pursue high-tech careers while earning a debt-free college degree. The partnership reflects the College’s expansion of its Workforce Development program, and Eastern Millwork’s need for employees trained in advanced manufacturing.
Hailed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy as the blueprint for New Jersey’s economic future, the HCCC-EMI Holz Technik program embraces talent and technology and is modeled on proven European forms of education. Apprentices split their time between practical, on-the-job experience and college courses. As employees of EMI, a 30-year-old custom woodworking company that has embraced technology to automate high-end manufacturing and installation, the apprentices receive a $24,500 starting salary, paid vacations/holidays, health benefits, and 401K. Within five years, as they climb the career ladder at EMI, the apprentices will earn an Associate in Science (A.S.) degree in Advanced Manufacturing from HCCC and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Technical Studies from Thomas Edison State University (TESU) with no college debt. They will progress to a $70,000 salary level at the end of their apprenticeships.
“The increasingly global nature of advanced manufacturing poses great challenges to companies like EMI that seek workers who combine artisan skills with technology,” said HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber. “We are proud of our unique partnership and these talented apprentices of the Class of 2028.”
David Ayoub, 18, of Jersey City, is a Dickinson High School graduate. A natural DIYer, he embraces projects from the mundane to complex – lubricating door hinges, performing household appliance repairs, building a doghouse, and installing cabinets at home. He shadowed mechanics to learn automotive repair; collected used bicycles on Facebook Marketplace for repair and distribution; assembled secondhand furniture without all of the pieces and instructions; and used lunch periods to fix broken tables, restore objects, and build custom cutting boards, a shoe rack, and more at school. “I tend to gravitate towards building things that will benefit someone, especially in my community,” David said. “My ability to think in 3D comes from the fact that before I get to a project, I like to visualize its completion as well as the steps and what the project will look like in various stages.”
Ezeldein Elgamil, 23, of West New York, is a Memorial High School graduate. He juggled school with work as a customer support technician, troubleshooting home appliance repairs such as espresso machines for Premiere Response, and as Tech Support for HCCC students and faculty. Last summer, Ezeldein worked as an International Logistics Consultant with Sea & Air International in Manhattan, helping clients relocate property overseas and coast to coast. He plans to become an engineer. “While growing up, I was infamous for breaking and dismantling objects out of curiosity, and it stuck with me as I matured,” Ezeldein said. “I always excelled in my Physics class and specialty projects,” he added, noting that he created a mini rollercoaster out of paper for a metal ball that had to land in a three-inch space. His was the only group to successfully complete the project.
Phoenix Overholser, 18, of Jersey City, is a graduate of Hudson County Schools of Technology High Tech High School. He interned at Eastern Millwork last summer. Phoenix didn’t have a job during the first summer out of quarantine, but volunteered at various soup kitchens and nonprofit organizations. “My only plan after graduation was the Eastern Millwork apprenticeship. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and I prioritized it,” Phoenix said. He honed his knowledge at home at Liberty Science Center, where he learned to program and code video games, use 3D printers for architecture-based projects, and construct and program a drone. “Since I was a kid, I would take apart random stuff around the house, figure out how it worked, then eventually put it back together. I’ve built a lot of projects out of wood such as tables, drawers, a go-kart, shelving, and art pieces,” Phoenix said.
EMI Founder and CEO Andrew Campbell stated, “Our partnership with Hudson County Community College helps to fill a void. It opens doors for the young people of our community who have demonstrated promise and aptitude to earn a tuition-free college degree, and enjoy well-paying careers with many options. It also enables our company – and our industry – to provide value that importers cannot provide.”
More information about the Holz Technik Apprenticeship Program can be found on the College’s web site, https://www.hccc.edu/programs-courses/workforce-development/apprenticeship/eastern-millwork/program-details.html.