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National Apprenticeship Week - Council Bluffs

Date: Thursday, November 18, 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 Council Bluffs Community School District. Work-based learning coordinator D’Lisa Ware discussed opportunities provided through their program and shared her 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 early childhood educator opportunity.
The Early Childhood Education (ECE) program is new this year. The pathway for ECE was created during the previous school year and implemented this fall. Students are able to come out to Iowa Western Community College during the school day to take the necessary classes over the course of two years in order to obtain their Early Childhood Education Certificate.

During the time these students are taking the classes, Council Bluffs Community School District (CBCSD) wanted to give students the opportunity to have some on-the-Job training (OTJ). The apprenticeship program was the best way to do that.

We first looked at our own district to see how we could fill this need. In doing so, we created a pre-K ECE paraeducator apprenticeship. However, students who are juniors would not be able to experience OTJ due to the fact that they have classes to attend, and the hours for the apprenticeship are during school hours. Those constraints lead us to the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation. The foundation’s before-and-after school programs at all of the district’s elementary schools was the opportunity to get juniors into ECE apprenticeship. We have since added other establishments to the ECE apprenticeship.

The pathway we have gives students the opportunity to go to school all day, as juniors. Then after school, students go to their apprenticeships in one of the after-school programs. Then as seniors, we have built into the academic schedules during the school day time to experience OTJ as a paraeducator in one of the elementary’s pre-K classrooms. The apprentices also have the possibility of being hired full-time post-graduation.

To address students who would like to become teachers but do not necessarily have the means to go to school full time without working full time, the Work-Based Learning program has leveraged this agreement that CBCSD already had in place. CBCSD and Buena Vista University partnered together so that paraeducators are able to work full time and take courses online to become a teacher.

What type of student is a good candidate for an apprenticeship program?
Students who are enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at Iowa Western Community College are good candidates. Many of these students are preparing for a career that involves working with children or in education.

Why are apprenticeships important for strengthening Iowa’s workforce?
Apprenticeships provide our students with real-world experiences that introduce them to and prepare them for employment in their field of interest. These programs simultaneously provide employers with knowledgeable employees who have a vested interest in the field.

What advantages do businesses have for sponsoring student apprenticeships?
Employers are able to have first crack at these incoming members to the profession who have spent two years taking college courses to prepare them for a position. Another benefit to employers is that they do not need to spend the time and resources to train students as they may with other new employees who may not have the knowledge base that student apprentices do.

How did you build relationships with business sponsors?
Many of the connections we have with businesses have come to fruition through word-of-mouth. There have been several introductions from colleagues who know someone in the industry. Also presenting to a group of people has allowed for many relationships to start. Transparency about the program has also benefited the relationships. We have found that businesses want to know exactly what to expect from partnering with the district in an apprenticeship program.

We have also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce. We recognize the businesses that have partnered with the district. The program is called GrowCB. There is an event at the business where the chamber, ambassadors and a representative from Council Bluffs Community School District all say a few words and present a plaque to the business.

What tips would you give to other schools/businesses that are looking to add an apprenticeship program to their work-based learning opportunities?
It is so important to have apprenticeship opportunities for students. This is the best way to get the students to connect the content they are learning in the classroom with real life situations. While interviewing one of our Early Childhood Education apprentices, the student commented on how she observed a behavior in one of the young children that was taught earlier that day in her class. There is no greater value in what she had just experienced in education. This student is solidifying her education through work experience.

Any other thoughts on your experience with apprenticeships?
There is no better way for students to gain knowledge and understand what they are learning than to have the opportunity to put it into practice. It was surprising how willing many of the businesses are to sign on to sponsor an apprenticeship.