Apprentice program for Kewaunee, Door county students gets regional award, record participation
LUXEMBURG – The Ahnapee Regional Youth Apprenticeship program received a couple pieces of good news in the past week.
First, it reported a record number of student participants this school year, its fifth, with 284 students from seven high schools in Kewaunee and Door counties signed up and placed in jobs with 183 employers by the end of September.
Second, Jen Johnson, the program's director, was named the winner of the Career Pathmaker – Educator Award for 2021 by the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance during its 10th annual Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards ceremony held Oct. 26 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.
The awards are intended to shine a light on best practices by manufacturing and education collaborations throughout northeast Wisconsin and showcase top talents from local manufacturing companies, according to a news release from the alliance.
"I think winning this award really showed the integration we're trying to do in the community with businesses, integrating our curriculum at the high schools," Johnson told the Star-News. "It's a great collaboration between businesses and schools to make sure we're educating the right kind of students and employees for businesses in the area."
The apprenticeship program, which Johnson directs from her office at the Luxemburg-Casco School District, is involved with L-C and Kewaunee high schools in Kewaunee County and Southern Door, Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Gibraltar and Washington Island high schools on the Peninsula.
The students receive paid, on-the-job work experience in their field of interest and related classroom instruction. When on the job, they work with mentors train who train them and have them perform different duties at their businesses, giving them exposure to multiple aspects of the industry.
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The program started in 2018 with five students and steadily grew to enroll 232 students last year despite issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then it grew again to the 284 students taking part in 2021-22.
Students are required to commit to working 10 to 12 hours a week to complete the program, but the average time they work each week is 19.25 hours. The average wage is $12.45 an hour, and participating students have earned a total of more than $1.24 million since 2018, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which oversees the program.
The program identifies 16 "career clusters" that students can choose to explore as apprentices, with manufacturing, construction, transportation, agriculture, the arts, food production, health care, hospitality, financial institutions, technology, sales and marketing, and automotive service among the business types taking part. Students can try out the type of business they might match best and stay with it or change if it doesn't meet their goals or needs.
Johnson attributed the rapid growth of the program to several factors, among them that the program gives participants the chance to help businesses train and potentially retain students as qualified employees.
"I think the first part is, there's definitely an employer need at this point," she said. "Skilled employees are hard to come by.
"Second is the work we're doing with career exploration. Meeting with students to find out what their needs and interests are and matching that to a career path has been a key. We want to prepare our students to be college- and career-ready."
"Also, I think it's a new kind of learning," she noted. "Students get some of that real-world experience, and it shows how what they're learning in the classroom can be applied to work."
Johnson also said the program isn't specifically aimed at students trying to go directly from high school into a job, nor at students looking at continuing their education beyond high school. She said both types of students can benefit, and participants can earn skills certificates issued by the Department of Workforce Development as well as college credits.
She added that a number of students who've gone through the program have continued working with the businesses where they apprenticed. In some cases they stayed on as full-time employees and other cases they work part time while attending college, with some being offered tuition reimbursement.
"The program is truly for any student, whether going straight into the workforce or to a two-year or four-year (college) program," Johnson said.
For more information on the Ahnapee Regional Youth Apprenticeship program, visit ahnapeeya.com.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Apprentice program for Kewaunee, Door county students gets regional award, record participation