Finding qualified employees can be a struggle in today’s economy. As Wisconsin unemployment dips below 3 percent, companies are finding it critical to identify untapped sources of workers, especially those who are committed to staying with the company for the long haul.
For high school students, who are often asked to make career choices earlier and earlier, they are also in uncharted territory in determining a future path.
Wisconsin offers a solution for both companies and high school students: Youth Apprenticeship. Companies not considering this motivated talent pool are missing out. Students are motivated to try their hand and gain experience and are a great investment for many employers.
Youth Apprenticeship allows students in their junior and senior years of high school to take the next step in career exploration: a real, paying job. Almost any business in Wisconsin is eligible to sponsor a Youth Apprenticeship program. Standards exist for 11 broad industry areas, from manufacturing and construction to finance and marketing. Students in the program work for the employer at least 450 hours per year, while taking a class each semester focused on their industry and completing their high school curriculum.
Companies offering Youth Apprenticeship make career opportunities real to high school students, and students are paying attention. Students prefer to pursue opportunities that are tangible, something they can see, feel and get paid to do. And it bears out in the numbers. Program participation has doubled over the past five years, with almost 5,000 Wisconsin youth participating in 2019.
Students are interviewed, hired and perform work just like any other employee, but they have the benefit of receiving support from a high school-based coordinator and a designated employee mentor to keep them on track. Oversight by the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards and Department of Workforce Development ensures that the work environment is both safe and offers a broad array of experiences. Because of this unique structure, employers of youth apprentices find that three-fourths of program participants continue working for them after completing their program.
In addition, more than half of youth apprentices continue their education after high school and enter into post-secondary education, which is the same rate as other students in Wisconsin. The average Youth Apprenticeship participant brings to the workplace relevant work experience plus a desire to continue learning and advancing their career.
Many students receive advanced standing through the program that carries them into further technical studies. Youth Apprenticeship can provide participants with a head start toward a two-year degree in applied nursing, a four-year degree in biochemistry, or a six-year Registered Apprenticeship in industrial maintenance, among many others.
What’s more exciting is the Youth Apprenticeship program is committed to staying cutting-edge. All 11 industry areas will soon see a major overhaul receiving comprehensive updates to keep training and learning current with new technology and relevant. To learn more about how to participate, visit ya.wi.gov or email firstname.lastname@example.org.