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Students Discuss Importance of Youth Apprenticeship Program at Capitol

02/15/2016 11:00 am

On February 18, seniors Jared Novak and Riley Miller attended the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Day at the Capitol. There, they had the opportunity to share the importance of their Youth Apprenticeship experience with legislators.

Novak and Miller are both part of the Youth Apprenticeship program at West Salem High School. As part of the program, they serve as apprentices at different local businesses; Novak is currently at Pischke’s, and Miller at Tractor Central.

Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program was designed by the Department of Workforce Development to give students the option to learn occupational skills through both school and work experience. Youth apprentices work with a mentor around 10-20 paid hours a week to complete an industry-established competency checklist.

The program offers students the “education of a lifetime,” according to Paul Liethen, coordinator of the program at West Salem. By working at an established business, students’ experiences are not limited by the school’s budget or training.

“This is an opportunity I never thought I would have,” said Miller, who, before starting the program, assumed he would continue working at the family farm after graduation.

Novak added that it is a great opportunity to get in-depth training and a better understanding of the field.

Besides the technical aspect of working as a Youth Apprentice, Liethen emphasized the important relationships that apprentices build with their mentors. Students often look up to their mentors like “big brothers” and go to them for advice.

The Youth Apprenticeship Program at West Salem High School is over 18 years old, and the benefit has extended beyond the students.

“Dealerships are recognizing these young men are skilled,” said Liethen, “and, after initial training, apprentices significantly increase the productivity of a technician.”

According to the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte “Skills Gap Study” in 2015, over two million jobs in manufacturing and the automotive industry will go unfilled due to lack of skilled workers. The Youth Apprenticeship Program helps fill that gap by preparing students with hands-on experience and factory training.

​Students working in Mr. Liethen's class

Youth Apprenticeship Day at the capitol

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