Student Apprenticeship Programs

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Student Apprenticeship Programs
Baaaack to school, right? But some very good news about education! There is a movement afoot offering middle and high school students apprenticeship programs. Apprentice programs offer young people real-world experience, a chance to explore and actually activate and test their individual interests and, in my opinion, an opportunity to escape the infantilization the present structures impose on them. Combining academic and technical classroom instruction with work experience “provides the foundation for youth to choose among multiple pathways—to enroll in college, begin full-time employment, or a combination,” according to I love this idea. A Little History Back in the day, before a degree in business administration became a popular major in universities, Jr. Achievement (JA) was a program for kids who were not usually college bound. Since 1919, JA has operated on the principle that the programs would “help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs, which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students are mentored and encouraged to put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.” In my day, by the time the college bound of us graduated from universities, many of the JA kids were the employers providing the jobs we were looking for. The JA kids had access to successful business people who volunteered their time and provided real-world, on-the job training and networking for their students that launched many a career. Today, JA is a robust, international organization. In 2022, they were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize because “for centuries, unemployment and poverty have led to political instability, violence, and war. By economically empowering youth on all continents, JA serves a conduit for peace,” according to the nominating committee. Wow! Apprentice programs for middle and high school students are a new addition to real-world job experience educational tracks. Teaming up with the U.S. Department of Labor, school districts around the country offer students who participate in these programs a high school diploma, college credits, and industry credentials. According to, “HS apprenticeship programs can add value for any student, from those planning to go to a four-year college to those exploring options after high school. For college-bound students, engaging in an apprenticeship can help them clarify their career aspirations and gain real-world work experience. For students who are less certain of their future choices, experiential learning has been shown to increase retention and graduation from high school. For all students, participation in HS apprenticeship offers career exploration, work experience, and a jump start toward post-secondary education and job opportunities. How it Works All around the country, state education departments are empowering middle schools and high schools to seek out and create partnerships with the U.S. Department of Labor, the School Superintendents Association and local employers. Programs vary depending on what types of businesses or institutions are available in a community. To start a program, begin by creating an advisory council composed of key stakeholders: educators, administrators, community college partners and business executives. This group must set criteria for classroom instruction, student scheduling, on-the-job training and measurable credits and credentials earned. This includes, not just high school credits earned, but college credits as well, giving students a real jump on their higher education pathways, saving them time and money. Usually, the Superintendent of Schools takes the lead in these programs. The next step is to engage students in the apprentice programs. They may spend part of the day in school and part of the day at their job sites. Or they might spend a summer at the job site, or after-school hours. They may end up missing out on some of the school social aspect, but that’s not always a bad thing. Students are paid for their work hours under special arrangements with the U.S. Department of Labor, and parts of the curriculum include money management skills that young college students generally lack when they leave home. Being paid to learn, being mentored by skilled employers and being able to try out career interests seem very beneficial for the engaged student. Students can end up with a high school degree, up to 1.5 years of college credit, a marketable skill set, a career pathway and money in the bank. Many apprenticeships are offered in STEM-related fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is highly motivating to students to find meaning in what they learn in traditional classrooms as they apply this knowledge to the real-world skill sets they learn on the job. The goal is to provide students with access to high quality, industry-focused training that combines classroom and on-the-job learning, and affordable pathways to college and careers in high-demand industries. Development and Dignity I love this idea. And I love the idea of starting it in Jr. High School, which I think is the source of adolescent misery and a place we really need to focus on. If you ask students who have been through it, you will hear about the drugs, pornography and sexualization shoved at them from day one. I think the dignity of work and the apprentice opportunity is a pathway, not only to a career, but to the freedom of being allowed to grow up. Check out Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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September 16, 2022

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