Working to the top

Matthews resident’s CATS apprenticeship marks third for the city

by Morgan Smith

Ethan Smith started an apprenticeship with the Charlotte Area Transit System’s finance office last January. Photo courtesy of CATS

Matthews resident Ethan Smith can add the Charlotte Area Transit System to his resume, giving him experience beyond his years.

The 24-year-old local has been an apprentice in the CATS finance office since January – one of three internships he’s had in the city so far. He says he’s happy to be living out his dream.

“I’m in an office building all day but its kind of a variety of things, which is why I got into city government to begin with,” he said. “Some days I’ll spend the majority of my day in a cubicle crunching numbers, but other days I’m working and interacting with people. It’s a nice variety of tasks.”

Each year, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Division Apprenticeship and Internship Program matches current graduate students and recent college graduates with a sponsor public transportation agency, transportation management company or planning organization for a paid 12-month apprenticeship or internship. Participants get first-hand work experience in the public transportation industry, preparing them for a career.

Smith graduated a year ago with a master of public administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He started working for the city in May 2011 with a six-month internship in the city manager’s office, where he worked on several projects for budget and evaluation. His next gig was part of the state energy internship program where he processed a lot of paperwork and organizing records. He’ll be with CATS for another year.

“I love the fact that I can continue to work with some of the other people I worked with from other (city) departments. I also like numbers and I like being able to crunch numbers,” Smith said. With CATS, Smith added that his jobs mostly consist of preparing budget reports and other analysis for the finance office.

Smith originally came to the Charlotte-area after living in Waynesville growing up. He’s visited Matthews for years since his grandparents are residents and have attended Matthews United Methodist Church since before Smith can remember.

“I’ve been going there since I was a baby,” he said.

He came to Charlotte for school, but has stayed because of the opportunities he’s had… and for Matthews United Methodist.

“I volunteer on the weekends with Matthews United Methodist youth group. I work as a youth counselor on Sunday nights; I’ve coached a youth basketball team,” he said. “I like being in Charlotte cause I’m fairly close to my mom and my dad so I can travel on weekends to visit them.”

Smith also plays softball on several teams in the areas and is involved in a new young adult ministry at Matthews UMC focused on community service projects.

For Smith, he’s not sure what the future holds, but he says his experiences will definitely help his future. They’ve already given him a lead on city jobs. For the CATS apprenticeship, Smith said he thinks his past experiences are why he got the job.

“I think they were pretty excited to work with someone who had worked with multiple city departments and with someone who really knew a lot of people from around the city,” he said.

Smith said he’s learned a lot from every opportunity so far, and has found several role models along the way.

“I don’t know if I have any specific comments on my plans after my apprenticeship,” he said. “I would love to someday be like some of the great leaders in the city today – like Curt Walton, city manager, and Randy Harrington, interim budget director. I would love to be like those guys. I have learned through the internships how incredibly skilled those guys are and I would love to get to that level.”

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