MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new tech venture in the Mid-South received a visit Wednesday from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

UpSmith is offering a new accelerated apprenticeship program for West Tennesseans. It’s a paid, eight-week boot camp for locals interested in the electrical trade.

Currently, 18 students are enrolled in the summer program, which started on Monday. Graduates will earn at least $20 an hour.

UpSmith says it is a company with a mission to address the skilled talent crisis. It launched its tech platform,, in Memphis on April 7. On June 6, the company launched the Memphis Electrician Apprenticeship Program in partnership with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of West TN and the City of Memphis.

“To have a trade to be an electrician or welder or anything in 8 weeks, and be fully successful and prepared to do that, that is unheard of,” student Keith Reynolds said.

Upsmith and the Associated Builders and Contractors hosted Lee at the former Coca-Cola bottling facility on South Hollywood.

Lee said UpSmith is offering a unique model: private companies working with local goverment agencies to offer free technical training to students. It can put families on a new trajectory in life, he said.

“The way we do that is provide an opportunity for them to learn skills and to gain the knowledge and information necessary to engage and to get that meaningful work that will be transformational for them,” Lee said. “Very excited about what’s happening here.”

Katrina Mason is a furloughed electrical contractor tackling a male-dominated field.

“They’re helping you, they’re giving you the tools,” Mason said. “I mean, this is like a $10,000 or $12,000 program. And it’s free to us for just going out reaching out and trying to get this opportunity.”

Mason is now sponsored by a new all-female electrical company and feels this training will be a real confidence booster.

“When you have a trade under your belt and you have something that gives you, that just gives you that hope in yourself, in your city, that you can do this and you have something that’s coming after this platform that’s coming, that can lead you on to greater things. This is the way to go,” she said.