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National Apprenticeship Week – Clear Lake

Date: 
Monday, November 15, 2021

Editor’s note: To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we are highlighting several successful Registered Apprenticeship programs across the state. Work-based learning opportunities, including Registered Apprenticeships, help provide hands-on career exploration and training for high school students in Iowa. Through these opportunities, students are able to experience a wide variety of career fields from advanced manufacturing to health care to information technology. These valuable experiences also align with the Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70 percent of Iowans with education and training beyond high school by 2025. National Apprenticeship Week runs Nov. 15-21 and is an annual event.

Today’s highlight features the Registered Apprenticeship program at Clear Lake Community School District. Superintendent Doug Gee discussed the opportunities provided through the district’s program and shared his thoughts on why apprenticeships are important for Iowa.

Tell us a little about the Registered Apprenticeship program that you offer to high school students. In particular, please share details on your carpentry opportunity.
We have a partnership with Dean Snyder Construction here in Clear Lake. They do all kinds of construction, from housing to commercial buildings. Currently, our apprentices are working on some projects at our school that Dean Snyder Construction is doing. We have a wellness center being added onto our building and also a new gym entrance. Our apprentices get an opportunity to do framing, concrete work, install windows and doors, welding and any other work in carpentry or construction.

We also have a welding program, and we partner with IMT for that. The welding program has been going for a few years now and is also going great. One particular success story is with a student who just graduated from high school in May. He did so well at the apprenticeship that he walked right into a full-time job and is already one of their top welders. When he started, he really wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he graduated. This was a win for the student, the school and IMT.

What type of student is a good candidate for an apprenticeship program?
A good candidate is any student who would like to try a trade or is not really sure what they want to do after they graduate but is also unsure if they want to attend a four-year college.  The high school Registered Apprenticeship program gives them an opportunity to try a trade and find out if they like it. It is also great for the student who does not like traditional school. We have found this as a way to keep them in school, learn a trade and get paid at the same time.

Why are apprenticeships important for strengthening Iowa’s workforce?
There is such a significant shortage of workers for these fields. This introduces more students to these possibilities and gets them started on training. If it works out, many of these students walk right out of high school into a great job. It also helps employers get workers immediately.

What advantages do businesses have for sponsoring student apprenticeships?
They have immediate access to potential employees. It enables them to introduce what they do. They also find great future employees and get a head start on training them specifically for their business.  Many students do not know what they want to do when they get out of high school. If a business can show them a great opportunity while they are in high school, they may choose to work for them after they graduate.

How did you build relationships with business sponsors?
I started building relationships with local businesses when I started as the new superintendent, but I also continually worked to introduce myself to businesses in our community. I reached out to most of the business owners and set-up a time to meet with them, talk about the school and how we could work together in the community. So, when I found out about the high school registered apprenticeship program, I knew which businesses I would be able to approach right away.

What tips would you give to other schools/businesses that are looking to add an apprenticeship program to their work-based learning opportunities?
I would tell other schools to get out and meet with local businesses and talk about how they need to work together. Ask them for their input into how the school can work with them to support their business. The next step is to figure out the programs that your students have an interest in and find a way to prepare them for the registered apprenticeship program, which can be hard sometimes to find the right teacher. We have the philosophy, “If it is good for kids, then you need to find a way to make it happen,” and our mission statement is “To Ensure a High Level of Learning for All.” ALL means ALL students, so you need to find out what kids are passionate about and provide opportunities for them to pursue that passion. High levels of learning mean they are able to learn beyond high school. A Registered Apprenticeship gives those students who are not going to go to college the opportunity to learn a trade beyond high school and give them a head start. It is also a great opportunity because they can start to work at age 16.

Any other thoughts on your experience with apprenticeships?
This is one of the best opportunities for schools to help students find a career in high demand fields that they may not have even thought of. At the same time, it helps local businesses fill much-needed positions in their company. The student who graduated last year and walked into a full-time welding job with great pay right out of high school actually had no idea what he wanted to do when he started the apprenticeship program. He is now one of the company’s top welders.

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on December 06, 2021 at 8:40pm.