High school apprenticeship programs aim higher

West Valley School District students can graduate with journeyman’s credentials in manufacturing
By: | September 13, 2019
CTE instruction for students at West Valley School District No. 208 in Yakima blends career credential skills into the general curriculum.CTE instruction for students at West Valley School District No. 208 in Yakima blends career credential skills into the general curriculum.

Because high school offers most students their last chance at free education, one Washington district has taken its apprenticeship programs to a higher level.

West Valley School District No. 208 in Yakima was one of the first systems in the nation to give students the opportunity to graduate with industry-recognized journeyman’s credentials in manufacturing, which is a higher level of employment certification than is offered in many CTE programs, says Christopher Nesmith, West Valley’s director of innovation.

A challenge for many districts has been embedding journeyman’s career credentials into the curriculum. “We aligned academic standards to apprenticeship standards,” Nesmith says, “For example, when students write technical blueprints, they also earn English and math credits. They earn credits in applied physics and science while working with different manufacturing materials.”

West Valley starts career pathways in middle school. Seventh-graders are expected to become certified in Microsoft software and eighth-graders earn coding certifications and begin The Boeing Company’s Core Plus manufacturing curriculum.

Because journeymen need 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, juniors and seniors hold salaried apprenticeships, working on-site from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., four days per week during the school year. They work full time during the summer. Company staffers serve as mentors.

The district is now working with several state agencies to create a similar program for paraeducators.

The state of Maryland launched pilot apprenticeship programs in two school districts during the 2018-19 school year, and programs are expected to be added to 10 more systems this school year.

Students, who must be 16, can interview with a company to earn paid apprenticeships that will become a full-time positions after graduation. Students also have the option of continued training, says Marquita Friday, director of career programs for the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Career and College Readiness.

During apprenticeships, students must take a year of related instruction that, depending on the career field, takes place either at school or on the job site. The program has saved companies money on training and recruitment, Friday says.

Students at West Valley School District No. 208 need 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. They working mornings during the school year and full-time during the summer.

Students at West Valley School District No. 208 need 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. They working mornings during the school year and full-time during the summer.

To generate excitement around the apprenticeships, schools have held “signing days,” during which an employer makes a commitment to a student employee—similar to the way a college or university announces the recruitment of a star athlete. About 15 students participated in a recent signing day for the Howard County Public School System, Friday says.

Students who still want to go to college can use their salaries to pay tuition, she adds.

“These students are also able to start living their lives earlier,” she says. “They can buy cars and homes because they’re not as saddled with student debt.”


Read the full feature: Auto shop accelerates in high school CTE programs