Employers can help shape tomorrow’s future workforce with youth apprenticeships

By Erin Eagan

For over 25 years, youth apprenticeship programs have been connecting Wisconsin’s employers to the future workforce. Youth apprenticeships give employers the opportunity to mentor eager high school juniors and seniors as they explore future careers. They create an ideal environment for employers to teach students the specialized skills that cannot be learned in a classroom setting and educate them on their business and industry.

As part of a one- or two-year apprenticeship, students attend high school classes for part of the day and work with the employers for a few hours, depending on the needs of the employer and the flexibility of the student’s schedule. The classes the students typically take are industry-related, enhancing what they are learning from the employer.

During the 2017-18 school year, youth apprenticeship in Wisconsin hit an all-time high with over 2,900 employers participating in the program. For proof of its success, at the completion of the apprenticeship, on average, employers extend permanent job offers to more than 75% of the graduating youth, making it a valuable pipeline for recruiting and retaining talent.

Both students and employers benefit
The connections made between students and employers in invaluable. Employers who have participated in the youth apprenticeship program have noted many benefits, including:

  • The chance to mentor youth who are eager to learn about the industry
  • Direct control over building a pipeline to future workers
  • Positive public perception for your company in the community and beyond
  • Ability to influence curriculum development as the industry evolves

"We think youth apprenticeship is valuable because it provides direct experience and exposure for students who are interested in the CNC Machine trade,” says Andy Preissner, A to Z Machine Company in Appleton, one of many employer testimonials touting the benefits of the youth apprenticeship program. “This is a great opportunity for students to spend a year or more of school learning and experiencing the trade, and figure out if it is right for them, while we get some time to see if we would like to hire them once they graduate.”

Preissner also speaks first-hand to the program’s importance not just to a specific business but to the industry as a whole. “We are utilizing this program to not only develop our own CNC Machinists, but to also increase exposure for the field,” he adds. “This is an excellent opportunity to change the perception of manufacturing one student at a time."

Your company may be eligible for funding
The youth apprenticeship program is overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). There are several program areas that have been approved by DWD with more being added. Your company may be eligible for funding for the program. To apply, visit DWD’s Youth Apprentice Program Application Guide.