Wisconsin Brings Apprenticeships to High Schools; Work Hours Earn School Credit
Skilled labor shortages are not only affecting the manufacturing industry, they are also disrupting the health sciences, construction, agriculture, and hospitality sectors as well. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has created a program that directs high school students into those fields during their high school years to address the labor shortage and also aid in their career development and postsecondary outcomes.
Over 20,000 Wisconsin high school students and 9,000 employers have participated in the Youth Apprenticeship (YA) program offered at public high schools across the state since 2007. Similar to other apprenticeship programs, Wisconsin’s YA opportunity supplements traditional education with work experience, but it is unique because job training begins in high school.
Participants are hired by local companies in various fields – such as manufacturing, agriculture, finance, and healthcare – and are paid to work part time at the company. The participants continue to go to school, part-time, and are evaluated in both school and work on attendance and performance. Completion of the program with passing marks results in a high school diploma and a state-issued skill certificate, which makes the high school graduate far more employable than the average high school graduate. It also differentiates those graduates from other high school graduates in the college application process, if they decide to continue their formal education.
The YA program has recently developed a “Bridge” between YA and Registered Apprenticeships (RA). This bridge will reduce the average age of RA workers, which means industries will be able to train higher-quality workers sooner and address labor shortages.
The YA to RA Bridge will also ease the transition for high school graduates into the working world. The skills learned at ages 16-18 will develop more once they become full-time apprentices and will set them up for career growth and mastery of a trade or industry.
Youth Apprenticeships also provide high school students an opportunity to learn about an industry they are interested in before they commit to studying that field in college, or committing to working in the field full-time after high school. Firsthand experience in a workplace exposes young adults to responsibilities and expectations that classroom education does not. And, the work they do contributes to their personal development and the process of figuring out what they want to do when they graduate high school.
Pioneer Institute congratulates Karen P. Morgan, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, on her winning submission.