Governor seeking to expand Youth Apprenticeships

Governor Scott Walker recently outlined his plans to expand the state’s Youth Apprenticeship program.

Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship (YA) program is one of the oldest such programs in the nation. It was established in 1991 and is designed for high school students who want hands-on learning in an occupational area at a worksite along with classroom instruction.

Youth Apprenticeships are currently open to high school juniors and seniors as a one- or two-year elective program that combines academic and technical instruction with mentored on-the-job learning.

Among other things, the governor’s proposal would open the program to students in all high school grades as well as to students in seventh and eighth grades.

Gov. Walker sees expanding this program as a way to both boost Wisconsin’s high school graduation rate and combat the state’s worker shortage.

“Part of the key to getting people to graduate,” says Walker, “is giving them hope that if you take these classes, if you stay in school, if you stay focused, there’s a career at the other end of that.”

Walker notes, “We want to start our young people thinking earlier on about what are you good at? What are you interested in? What kind of career opportunities are out there?” Walker adds, “We need every student to graduate, and not just to graduate, but graduate with a game plan for what their career is going to be.”

The Youth Apprenticeship program is administered by the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) which provides grant funds to 33 regional consortia that work with employers and school districts to develop and manage youth apprenticeship programs.

Grant funds are primarily used to support youth apprenticeship coordinators who serve as the backbone of regional consortia. Who leads those consortia varies and can include, for example, people from regional chambers of commerce, technical colleges, and school districts. To receive a youth apprenticeship grant, leaders must work with local employers and school districts, commit to 50 percent matching funds and agree to report to the state on basic apprentice outcomes, including participation and completion.

Local programs provide training based on statewide youth apprenticeship curriculum guidelines, endorsed by business and industry. Students are instructed by qualified teachers and skilled worksite mentors. Students are simultaneously enrolled in academic classes to meet high school graduation requirements, in a youth apprenticeship related instruction class, and are employed by a participating employer under the supervision of a skilled mentor.  This combination of school-based and work-based learning is designed to instruct students in employability and occupational skills defined by Wisconsin industries.

Over the last two years, the state support for the Youth Apprenticeship Program nearly doubled. In fiscal year 2018 almost $4 million was committed to the program.  Participation has grown as well, with 4,365 students and 3.070 employers participating in the 2017-18 school year.

Read more:  Wisconsin Public Radio story