Apprenticeship Program Gives Students Business Experience

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- “The pursuit of happiness” is a phrase at the center of the American Dream.

A Chattanooga organization by that same name looks to give that dream to youth in our area. The Pursuit of Happiness, led by president and CEO Michael Gordon, has launched the BHE Ready, or the Be Ready program. It teaches trades and business skills to students at Brainerd, Howard, and East Ridge High Schools.

Holly Battle, a retired school administrator, is responsible for connecting their organization to the schools in getting their program offered. She stated that, “We went in and partnered with the future ready programs at Brainerd, Howard, and East Ridge, and each one of those Future Ready tracks had something that our apprenticeship program was interested in. Howard has a welding program, East Ridge has a woodworking program, and Brainerd has an entrepreneurial track.”

The kids learn valuable business skills they would not normally learn later on in their education while being paid $15 an hour. Lou Ziebold, a retired business owner who teaches and mentors within the program, celebrated the students by saying,  “You’d be surprised, kids are bright and resilient today understand concepts easily. These are things normally taught in business school.”

Mr. Gordon believes the investments being made into these students will have positive impacts on both them and the city in the decades to come. He made the comparison of, “If you plant an oak tree seed in a pot, the growth on it will be stunted. That’s our kids in the under served and the under resourced community right. But if you take that oak tree and plant it in the forest, man it is going to grow so high where you won’t be able to measure how tall it is. That is our students.”

Local stores plan to sell students’ work in the coming months which could open up a world of opportunity. Mr. Gordon is excited for these students as, “When we bring these volunteers. Man, members of corporate America into our students at Brainerd, Howard, East Ridge, and they share their experiences with our students. Now that window they were looking out of, man it is maximized now, now they are seeing a world that is totally different, and they are going to be equipped more for Future Ready.”

The BHE Ready program is looking to raise $75,000 to help continue to build their program and to help their students understand the value of capital. Additionally, they are looking for anyone who has experience in welding or woodworking to be a supervisor in the program. If you would like to learn more about The Pursuit of Happiness’ mission, visit their website at


Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News