WHS offers apprenticeship opportunities
By Angie Landsverk
Finding ways to partner Waupaca High School students with area businesses is not a new idea.
However, it now has a new name.
The school district is calling it Waupaca Works.
“Waupaca students work to earn a good education. They work to excel in experiences outside the school building. They will excel in post-secondary education, and they will excel in their careers, the workforce,” said Jen Erb, the school’s career and technical education coordinator.
Erb, who is also an agriculture teacher at WHS, said Academic and Career Planning (ACP) is a statewide initiative.
“The letters are new to school, but we have been doing it already,” she said. “It’s been going on for years. Now there’s a name for it.”
ACP is about giving students real-world experiences and placing more of an emphasis on it, Erb said.
At WHS, students have been taking the Certified Nursing Assistant course for years.
Students also have the opportunity to work in the school store and greenhouse, as well as to restore classic cars and do residential building, she said.
In addition, the school partners with Waupaca Foundry and Blenker Companies Inc. to create apprenticeship opportunities for students.
Students in youth apprenticeships get paid and also receive high school credit.
“We hope to have more success and partnerships with community partners,” Erb said.
Andy Schroeder just completed his junior year at WHS.
He was doing an apprenticeship at a dairy farm when he discovered, during a career interest survey, that he scored highest in construction.
“I never knew construction was an option. I’ve been farming, working on one, since probably since second grade,” he said.
All WHS students have a conference with their guidance counselor during their junior year.
Erb said they talk about what they want to do in the future and how they can get that done.
With Schroeder scoring high in the construction area, an apprenticeship was lined up for him at Blenker Companies in Amherst.
“At the job, I built all the trusses and the floors for the house,” he said, referring to the home WHS students began building this past school year.
During the school year, Schroeder worked at Blenker from 6-9 a.m.
He began his school day around 9:30 a.m.
After school, Schroeder had track practice, followed by working at his other job at Schmoldt Dairy by Weyauwega.
This summer, he is working 40 hours a week at Blenker.
“I get credit for the work,” he said. “I get to learn hands-on skills, how to listen to a boss.”
Erb said students must maintain their grades in order to stay in the program.
Gordy Barth, manager of Employee Development & Training at Waupaca Foundry, said school comes first.
“We stay in close contact with the school. We make sure they maintain their grades,” he said.
The foundry has worked with the district for a number of years and works with other area school districts as well, he said.
Students have to go through the regular application and interview process, Barth said.
There are a variety of opportunities at the foundry, including the stock room, pattern shop, Health and Safety Department, production area and office.
When positions are not available, students may apply again the following year, Barth said.
If a position opens up during the school year, students may be contacted, he said.
“A lot of students who go through the program end up coming back – some in different areas,” Barth said.
He said the students are “getting experience and truly finding out what it’s like to work.”
They must be on time for work.
Barth said they develop a work ethic and also realize whether they like the work they are doing or have an interest in it.
Lana Sommer also just completed her junior year at WHS.
During her conference with her guidance counselor, she expressed an interest in accounting.
Sommer did an online application to work at Waupaca Foundry, had an interview and began working in the accounting department.
She soon realized accounting was not for her, but perhaps human resources was.
They switched her to that department, and she likes working in that area.
“It helped me narrow my future,” Sommer said.
During this past school year, she went to school from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and then worked at the foundry until 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m.
Sommer is working at the foundry 25 hours per week this summer.
When school starts again in the fall, she will work there sixth through eighth hours.
Ryan Hemmila is one of four WHS students who will start working at Skyward in Stevens Point on Monday, June 12.
The company decided to hire a team of students to write a piece of software.
Hemmila, who will be a senior at WHS in the fall, is interested in information technology. He wants to be a software engineer.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said.
Next school year
Erb said these students are breaking ground for others to be employed in these workplaces.
In addition, the school district recently sent surveys to about 400 local businesses, asking if students may job shadow employees or if the business is willing to have someone speak to students or have them visit.
Erb said the goal during the 2017-18 school year is to have every student somehow touched by a career day.
A grant is also being sought to create a Waupaca Works Career Cafe within the high school.
It would be a space where students could have interviews for youth apprenticeships and work on career exploration.
The students already participating in youth apprenticeships are glad they are doing so.
“I will definitely remember from my high school career my youth apprenticeship work experience,” Schroeder said. “I will definitely have a step ahead of everyone else.”