Apprenticeships As A Post-High School Option

Article written by Vickie Leflore, Youth Development Extension Educator.
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Some recent grads may not want to attend a four-year college. For those desiring to have more direct hands-on learning, exploring apprenticeship opportunities may be more advantageous.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an “apprenticeship is a proven approach for preparing workers for jobs while meeting the needs of business for a highly-skilled workforce. It is an employer-driven, “learn-while-you-earn” model that combines on-the-job training, provided by the employer that hires the apprentice, with job-related instruction in curricula tied to the attainment of national skills standards.”

In the past, a recent high school graduate might face being stigmatized because they choose not to seek a four-year degree. According to National Public Radio Education, the stigma was once that trades and apprenticeships were for individuals that weren’t college material or academically prepared. This just isn’t the case anymore, trades and apprenticeships are viewed as valuable post-secondary career path options.

Gateway Technical Colleges Apprenticeship Coordinator, Nicci Pagán shared that “most high school graduates are not aware of apprenticeship or how it works. Wisconsin has a unique and proud history with apprenticeship as the first to implement such a training program in the U.S. and Gateway, in particular, as the first vocational college to provide the related instruction back in 1911.

There are many advantages to apprenticeship programs. Enrolling in an apprenticeship program typically is less costly than a four-year degree program. Apprenticeships can be especially attractive because they offer an immediate paycheck for work and also teach skills in both hands-on and classroom settings. Someone specifically focused on one area, has the opportunity to focus rigorously on relevant content area and continue to gain the skills necessary to master that focus area with continued learning.

The length of an apprenticeship can vary from months to years, the Department of Labor says that skilled trade workers are in demand and should be a consideration for the individual choosing to go in a different direction than going to a four-year college. The apprenticeship path provides a fast-track directly into the specific job or career path.

Apprenticeship programs are an asset to not only the worker but also to state and local workforce stakeholders, some k-12 schools are connecting with technical colleges because they see the need and benefits of linking education and hands-on learning.

Gateway’s Apprenticeship Coordinator, Pagán added “apprenticeship expedites expertise, all the while providing an apprentice with real-world experience, a livable wage, a career, little to no student loan debt and a support network. It allows individuals to learn both hands-on and in the classroom under the supervision of professionals, gaining insight from the years of experience their mentors provide. It is no secret that we all learn differently. Apprenticeship is a viable higher education option for those of us who learn best by getting our hands dirty, so to speak.”

Apprenticeship programs are another fundamental resource that should be an option to educate youth for future careers. For individuals that gravitate towards shortened hands-on programming, apprentices can be a worthwhile alternative to attending a four-year college.

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