I think of apprenticeship as a gem whose value and potential haven’t been fully discovered yet. Yes, people know of apprenticeship, but they don’t know how powerful it can be. Apprenticeship is, in my opinion, underestimated, and that is so wrong, because apprenticeship may be a life-changing journey leading to prosperity and success! So let me tell you a little more about apprenticeship, and more specifically high school apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is a work-based learning opportunity that can provide you with academic and workplace skills that lead to postsecondary education opportunities and great careers. Businesses, workforce professionals, educators, and others are considering apprenticeship as an effective way to start high school students and other youth on a career pathway that results in good wages and opportunities for advancement.
What is apprenticeship for high school students then? High school apprenticeship programs combine work-based, on-the-job training (OJT) with relevant related technical instruction (RTI) delivered in a classroom setting. In other words, you get a chance to apply the theory you’re learning in a classroom to the real world of work. You’re provided with supervision and mentoring to make sure that you learn the right way of carrying out work tasks. You also learn the distinctive workplace culture and the expectations of your employer, which is a big deal! Moreover, you gain clarity on the specific types of careers you may wish to pursue after high school, earn minimum wage or above, and may receive raises as your skills increase. These programs allow you to explore a career and develop related occupational skills while working in the industry of your chosen career cluster. Sounds awesome? Because it is!
Let’s find out why high school apprenticeship is important and what makes it successful. I bet you’ve heard it before: “High school – a critical time for development of career choices.” I would phrase it differently: “High school – the time of exploration and discovery when young people start to develop their first serious career choices.” Remember, the career choices you make in high school are not binding for the rest of your life, trust me, I know. I spent four years in high school preparing for med school, but went to law school, and ended up as an educator. I love what I’m doing; I consider myself successful and have no regrets.
It takes time to discover yourself and there is nothing wrong with that. Changing your career fields is a part of this process. However, the earlier you start, the better for you. Having that in mind, communities across the nation are launching programs allowing high school students to participate in career-oriented coursework combined with work-based learning opportunities. Although these programs have different names (high school apprenticeship, school-to-apprenticeship, or youth apprenticeship), they all have the same objective – to provide high school students with high-quality training that meets the requirements of high-demand industries; to provide students with opportunities to succeed!
If you think that apprenticeship is not for you because you don’t see yourself working in Construction Trades, think again. Apprenticeship programs are springing up like mushrooms in virtually any industry you can think of. To give you some examples: healthcare, information technology, energy, advanced manufacturing, finance & business, maritime, transportation, mining, and others. Businesses in all these industries are starting to discover and appreciate the power of apprenticeship. They see that creating apprenticeable occupations is with huge benefit to them, so that’s why they are pushing hard to add as many of them as possible. And that is great news to you, because you can choose from multiple career pathways to find something that not only will bring you a good paycheck, but also fulfillment and satisfaction.
It’s not all about money, after all. Another cool thing about high school apprenticeship is that students participating in these programs graduate not only with a high school diploma, but also with college credits and industry-recognized credentials. This means that after high school graduation, you can either enroll in college or vocational school, enter an ‘adult’ apprenticeship, start full-time employment, or combine all of these options, but you will do so with more clarity about who you are and what you want in life. High school apprenticeship is a win-win situation for you and other young people, for businesses, communities, and for our nation, and if I haven’t convinced you to look into (high school) apprenticeship, think again. Think Apprenticeship!