Partner in Youth Apprenticeship Program

The Kiel Area Board of Education was introduced November 7 to the Youth Apprenticeship (YA) program which gives students the opportunity to work with adults in a professional work setting and learn skills they cannot learn in a classroom.

The YA is a partnership between various businesses and juniors and seniors in area high schools.  At this point there are several pathways being targeted - health care services; culinary, hospitality, lodging and tourism; finance; manufacturing, and science, technology, engineering and math.

Coordinator of the YA program Jill Preissner of Lakeshore Technical College introduced "some of the fruit grown" by the program - Kiel High School students Nathan Pieper employed with HG Weber, Kiel, being trained in machine tool; Brooke Koeser with HUI, Kiel, training in welding; Adam Hecker with Amerequip, Kiel-New Holstein, training as quality assurance assistant; and Mattece Charlton with the American Club, Kohler, training in hospitality.

 Preissner shared some facts about the YA program:  YA is a structured program with guidelines and measures of student attainment; Students are given specific skills in which to become competent and this specificity sets it apart from other programs; The state agency that regulates YA is the Department of Workforce Development; Mentors are assigned to every business or place of employment guiding and teaching the students on a daily basis.  The help guide the students on their career pursuits; Grading conferences are held four times throughout the academic school year with the parents, a school representative, the student mentor and coordinator on what and how the student is doing and where the path will take him (her).  All work together on that plan.

 Preissner said in January two informational meetings on the YA program are held for students and their parents.  When accepted into the program, students can be released to work during the school year provided their academic record allows for it.  Another component of the YA program is working with the guidance department at the high school in developing a work schedule.  The program calls for students to work 450 paid hours in a given year.

In January prospective YA students receive an extensive application packet.  The student must submit three forms of recommendation, transfer and attendance record and write an essay.  Whether accepted or not, the student gains the good life skill of filling out an application, Preissner said.  If considered a good candidate they undergo an interview with the company which makes the final decision to employ or not employ the student.  Even if the student does not get the job the interview is a good life experience, Preissner said.  If the company says yes, the student begins working in June.  The company is cognizant of child labor laws, the student's hours are monitored and special considerations about the manufacturing area are upheld.  Preissner said the number of placements is growing and some of them are nonprofit.  Many companies are looking to fill the gap in engineering and manufacturing.  She said finance is the most difficult placement area.  The culinary and hospitality area is hot.  Preissner said she believes the YA program is not going away.  She listed a number of companies in the greater Sheboygan and Kiel area who are participating in the partnership.

Nathan Pieper, 17, a senior who works at HG Weber, is excited to be part of the program in which he operates CNC machines.  He said he has only two required classes at high school and can take them in the morning hours.  "I feel I've learned a lot there (at HG Weber) so far.  It is lots of  work to get into it (YA program) but it helps a lot.  It helps me figure out what I want to do."

Preissner said a grant will pay for online courses, in particular mathematics which is so terribly applicable in the engineering and manufacturing field.  While Pieper took shop class in high school, he said mathematics helps a lot, because a lot of math is involved in his job.  Preissner said it has been observed that grades in mathematics are improving because students are realizing how relevant math courses are and they are making the connection between work and school.

Koeser, a KHS junior, is in the welding manufacturing program at HUI; doing stamping, finishing parts, welding production, and she assists in problem solving.  Her employment enables her to earn elective credits, usually two per year.  Koeser said the people she works with are really nice.  She said she enjoys going to work.  HUI employee Steve Vogel said about the program that it is not only an opportunity for students to earn money but working closely with a mentor is a great experience.  Students who go through the program are called upon to mentor younger students about the YA program.

Junior Adam Hecker is with Amerequip as a technician.  He is involved with parts quality, paint, assembly, purchasing, and is being given a greater independence.  He discovered that he enjoys welding but does not think this is what he wants to do in a manufacturing setting.  An official at the plant said the YA program is "essential to our future workforce."  Preissner said all three students are learning print reading.

Preissner oversees 13 schools.  She said the technology education teachers have been great working with the local manufacturing and business firms.  Meeting academic standards and successfully heading toward high school graduation is critical.  Preissner said if a student is not on track to graduate, he or she is pulled from the YA program immediately. 

Because of the fast growing nature of the YA program, which incidentally is a statewide program, Preissner is now working to build a staff to support her in her work.  Being associated with a technical school (LTC) is a distinct advantage, she added.  Partnerships and placements are strong because she works in a hub of manufacturing settings.  The biggest hurdle is getting the word out to parents about the Youth Apprenticeship program.