Career and Tech Ed
The mission of the D.C. Everest Career and Technical Education Department, in partnership with the community, is to provide all students with opportunities to acquire and apply academic, technological, employment, and life skills in order to ensure their success in an ever-changing global society.
CTE Coordinator - Aaron Hoffman - 715-359-6561, ext. 4120
D.C. Everest offers a broad curriculum designed around 16 Career Clusters that provides students with the opportunity to explore their interests while earning four- and two-year college credits, attaining industry credentials, gaining hands-on classroom experience, and completing work-based learning opportunities prior to graduation.
Our curriculum is designed to help students prepare for a 21st-century career, balance professional and personal responsibilities, and be prepared — at any point in their post-secondary life — to be a successful learner on the job or while attending a two- or four-year college or university.
- Harmony Hommerding - Wooster's Garage
- Cody Klobucnik - Crystal Finishing Systems
- Abby Sendelbach - Evergreen Elementary
- Wyatt Worthen - J&D Tube Benders
- Eddie Zynda - CTech Manufacturing
LEARNING TO PERSEVERE, IMPROVISE, AND THINK CRITICALLY WHILE BUILDING IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS
Developing skills and confidence
Stephanie Stanke, a lifelong automotive enthusiast, opened Wooster’s Garage in 2017 becoming one of very few female automotive repair shop owners in the region. She grew up in a family of auto enthusiasts/auto shop owners, and in high school enrolled in automotive courses. Upon graduating, she set out to learn everything she could about the industry and the customers it serves, by working in a wide variety of roles within the automotive industry. In 2012 she rounded out her experiences by earning an associate's degree in Automotive Technology at Northcentral Technical College.
What struck Ms. Stanke during her years of working within the industry was the level of trepidation customers felt concerning the repairs and services completed on their vehicles. She set out to change that when she established her own business. To bridge the gap between customers and technicians Wooster’s works diligently to make customers feel comfortable about what they are investing in and driving — offering, for example, monthly auto clinics to help customers better understand their vehicles. She’s also working on a book based on the insights she’s gained at her customer auto clinics. Further, she serves as a role model for other female entrepreneurs, serving as a guest speaker who addresses what it’s like to work within a male-dominated field.
When D.C. Everest Community Partnership Coordinator Rose Matthie met Harmony Hommerding, a sophomore at D.C. Everest Senior High with a marked interest in cars, she immediately thought of Wooster’s as an ideal Youth Apprenticeship partner. Harmony’s interest in the automotive industry was piqued by mutual friends who had a love of cars and the history behind the car culture. Similar to Ms. Stanke, Harmony is pursuing her automotive interest by enrolling in Automotive Technology career track courses. She enrolled in Consumer Care Care as a sophomore and then Automotive Power Train Systems, Small Engines, and Introduction to Welding and Machining for her junior year. The DCE Senior High’s new six-bay Automotive Lab has provided her with unique hands-on learning opportunities, but Harmony sought to expand her horizons and gain insights into how an automotive shop runs as a Youth Apprentice at Wooster’s Garage.
As an apprentice, Harmony has the opportunity to be mentored by professionals, earn an income, learn skills that transfer to the classroom (and vice versa), and develop relationships within her area of interest. At Wooster’s, Harmony performs oil changes, removes and replaces brake pads and rotors, and is learning to inspect and diagnose vehicle problems. The latter, she notes, “matters because customer trust and safety are number one. Customers are like family in a way — you want to make sure you're not missing anything and you’re performing great work. Most people don't realize the importance of maintenance and repair and the overall effect it can have on how the vehicle runs and its efficiency.”
The opportunity to learn within a shop environment has clearly had a positive impact on Harmony. “This is a chance to learn hands-on, which is easier for me to grasp versus just reading about it. The concepts really stick,” she states. The breadth of what she can learn also has been one of the biggest surprises of the experience thus far. “There is always more you can learn from being a part of the automotive industry from repair and maintenance to performance and ability. Having experienced workplace mentors like Joe and Steph makes it very helpful,” she adds.
According to Ms. Stanke, Harmony’s professional curiosity is an asset. “Harmony has always been eager to learn, participate, and provide her own ideas to the business. She has a positive attitude and works extremely hard to learn about all of the different positions here. She is always willing to move around and help others, to identify room for improvement and is overall a great member of the team.” Further, Harmony’s enthusiasm has helped Wooster’s “expand on and grow our overall training procedures. We have adapted to provide even further ’in house’ hands-on training that will better set up the future of our workforce.” Wooster’s utilizes team member’s ideas and feedback to improve their business, therefore Harmony is a good fit for the automotive shop. As Ms. Stanke notes, “Harmony is extremely motivated and always brings new ideas to the table.”
Just as importantly, Harmony is developing critical “soft skills” — customer service and professional collaboration, for example. “Youth Apprentices are provided the opportunity to have a unique experience blending their education and real world practice for their potential future careers. Students work on communication skills, employability, trade skills and more while becoming active members of the workforce,” notes Ms. Stanke. “Harmony gets along well with customers and coworkers while pushing herself to learn new things. We are thrilled to have her as part of our team.”
Both Harmony and Ms. Stanke recognize the importance of building professional relationships as part of the apprenticeship experience as well. Looking ahead, Harmony is exploring the idea of pursuing a degree at Northcentral Technical College in the Automotive Technology field where she can capitalize on the dual enrollment credits she has earned and her apprenticeship experience. “The Youth Apprenticeship program is giving me a jump start on my career not only by helping me learn specific skills, but by meeting people in the industry.” Adds Ms. Stanke, “The program provides an opportunity for both the business and the apprentice to expand their knowledge, create long term relationships, and provide products and services to their customers while developing the skills of the next generations in their industry.”
Of course, apprentices also face — and overcome — challenges. For Harmony, one of those challenges has been patience. “ You can't rush into something you don't have experience with. I need to slow down, think critically, ask questions and listen so I can remember new things and understand the details of the customers' concerns and the technicians' instructions.” Another is that the automotive industry, and classrooms, tend to be dominated by males. “The gender stereotype in the automotive industry forces females to 'be more, to be equal' — you need to have more knowledge to prove you are equal,” observes Harmony. And, she adds, “having less physical strength as a female can also be a challenge at times. Knowing how to improvise and use different tools can be a benefit.” Ultimately, she has learned that perseverance pays off. The most rewarding aspect thus far has been “completing a job by myself and feeling the pride of learning new things and being able to help others. The work experience is a good challenge every time and it’s nice to make the connection between what I’m learning at school with what I do in the workplace.”
Wooster’s is eager to continue helping young students explore career opportunities. “It’s a great way for us to work within the community to not only offer employment opportunities for students but to set them up for their future careers.” Harmony’s eagerness, curiosity, and professionalism also have had a positive impact on Wooster’s. “Students like Harmony love to learn new things every day in a field that they already have interest in. We are now focusing even more on expanding our ability to help more interested students like her.”
When asked what she would say to other businesses considering Youth Apprenticeship opportunities, Ms. Stanke was quick to note that an apprenticeship program not only enhances a student’s education and work experiences, it provides “businesses or organizations with quality candidates who are currently interested in that line of work. The exposure to those work environments and ability for the students to find the type of employment they enjoy creates a unique advantage for the workforce. I would recommend any business or organization considering apprenticeship opportunities to invest their time in those programs and see the potential within these students.”
BUILDING CRITICAL CAREER SKILLS AND DISCOVERING PERSONAL STRENGTHSExploring New Career Options
D.C. Everest senior Cody Klobucnik is a familiar presence in the new technology wing of the D.C. Everest Senior High School. As a sophomore Cody took a lead role as student ambassador during the 2020 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly opened high-tech classrooms, graciously sharing his enthusiasm for the new Automotive Tech classroom with attendees from across the community. As he progressed through the DCE Career and Tech Ed program, Cody’s career aspirations began to nudge toward welding, a skill he excelled at and enjoyed. Looking for an opportunity to explore local Advanced Manufacturing career opportunities he secured a Youth Apprenticeship at Crystal Finishing Systems in the fabrication department. That experience led him down a new career path.
During his 22-month apprenticeship, Cody has developed skills in all areas of the fabrication department — progressing from press punches to five-axis CNC machines. “Had I not taken on the Youth Apprenticeship at Crystal Finishing,” notes Cody, “I never would have considered CNC. Just being exposed to the industry and the equipment expanded my career ideas.” He plans to attend NTC and pursue a degree in their CNC Operator program while continuing his on-the-job training. “I would like to grow into a full-time career at Crystal Finishing, continue to take on new challenges, gain skills and eventually work in programming and management.”
According to Carrie Sann, Vice President of Human Resources for Crystal Finishing Systems, “Cody is able to flex and move into any position within the fabrication department, which contributes to supplying product to our customers in a timely manner.” In fact, Cody acknowledges that adapting to “down-time” (when a machine is not running) was one of his greatest challenges. But he’s “learned to be flexible, jump in where needed and take on other tasks, to keep busy and be productive. As a result, I’ve learned more in all the fabrication areas and that has increased my understanding of the entire process.” Rather than getting frustrated by pauses in production he has “learned to troubleshoot, come up with quick solutions and learn from mistakes. I welcome new challenges — anything that lets me learn more.” Ms. Sann agrees. “Cody is excited to learn and grow. The knowledge he has gained from his education and work experience has given him some valuable skill sets for his future.”
Cody’s eagerness to learn is also beneficial to those he works with, improving department morale, communication and training. Ms. Sann notes that Cody’s apprenticeship — the first in the fabrication department — has been a learning experience for the department and given them the “opportunity to evaluate and gain further perspective on the overall training process. We have adjusted the way we incorporate youth apprenticeships into our overall business model to provide valuable hands-on training experience and set up youth for future success.” As a result, they will incorporate new programs and systems into their processes, including a train-the-trainer program and buddy system to help youth apprentices and new team members become more proficient. Cody, she adds, has “helped shed new light on opportunities and perspectives of the younger generations coming into the workforce” and “allowed our leadership to polish and enhance their coaching and training skills.”
She encourages all businesses and organizations to participate in the Youth Apprenticeship program. “It allows businesses to give back to the community, build and support our future workforce, and sustain economic growth.” Helping local youth is part of Crystal Finishing’s dedication to being a good community steward because the business can play an important role in helping youth develop employability skills such as communication, leadership and professionalism that will make them valued employees and expose them to different career opportunities.
Cody is clearly an example of that. “The Youth Apprenticeship program has already given me a chance to learn complex industry skills, expand social skills and appreciate experienced coworkers. I’ve had major growth in communication skills, advocating for myself, working through learning curves and being okay outside my comfort zone. I can talk more openly and voice my opinion and ideas with confidence.” He adds that his family has witnessed the change — his maturity and responsibility — since beginning in the program. He credits his growth to the supportive and encouraging team environment he’s experienced. “It feels satisfying to have been trained by coworkers who take pride in their job and know the machine inside and out, and to have earned their trust to take the controls. I’m amazed by my coworkers — their depth of knowledge about the machines and the processes. It is inspiring to me.”
“I will always remember the first time I took over setting up the machine with my mentor — taking control that first time, being trusted and having my mentor and others feel that I was ready to run with it,” he adds. He acknowledges being surprised at how far he has come — his role evolving from entry-level production support, deburring, prep and packaging where there was little decision making and autonomy to now running a five-axis CNC router. “I enjoy the constant changes in technology. It keeps things challenging and new.” He enjoys it so much that he hopes to himself be a mentor some day.
Since Cody began apprenticing at Crystal Finishing another four D.C. Everest students have begun their youth apprenticeships there with more onboarding soon. “We’re happy to support the community,” notes Ms. Sann, “and play an active role to help increase economic growth and create career pathways that strengthen the community workforce.”
Exploring elementary education
As part of developing its Portrait of a Graduate, the D.C. Everest Area School District has made a concerted effort to increase work-based learning opportunities for students through Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development School-to-Work Youth Apprenticeship program. The Youth Apprenticeship program at the D.C. Everest Senior High has rapidly grown over the past several years — in fall 2022 nearly 50 students are serving as Youth Apprentices and more than 50 are in the process of securing internships/apprenticeships. In 2017, the DCE Senior High began a multi-year process of establishing a classroom and work-based learning experience for the education career pathway and simultaneously cultivating young talent in the educational field. The process began with the launch of a new course — Teachers Change Lives — that combines classroom lessons and practicum experience. In 2019, former DCE instructor Paul Aleckson became Coordinator for the Always An Evergreen Educator talent pipeline project wherein he establishes and maintains contact with DCE alumni pursuing a degree in education. And in 2020, DCE Community Partnership Coordinator Rose Matthiae, DCE Career and Technical Education Coordinator Aaron Hoffman, DCE Teachers Change Lives Instructor Brad Seeley, and Paul Aleckson developed a new Education Internship opportunity for students who complete the Teachers Change Lives course. This new internship opportunity supplemented the existing Family/Consumer Education Internship course. To enroll in the senior-level FCE Internship, students must complete FCE coursework during their sophomore or junior year whereas the new Education Internship option does not require FCE coursework. As of 2020, students now have two unique opportunities to complete an education internship.
Abby Sendelbach — the daughter of Michelle Sendelbach, a DCE elementary teacher — had completed previous Family/Consumer Education coursework and selected the FCE Internship course to gain on-the-job experience. According to Abby, she always knew she would pursue a career in education. “There is a long line of teachers in my family and they have all been influential and inspiring,” she notes. Thus, in the fall of 2020 she enrolled in the Teachers Change Lives (TCL) course, which pairs classroom instruction with managing the day-to-day reality of teaching. Mondays and Wednesdays are dedicated to classroom activities, Tuesdays and Thursdays focus on practicum experience, and Fridays serve as prep days to create lesson and discipline plans and assessments. Throughout the semester students record their observations in a series of blog posts, gather their insights, compile their lesson plans, and collect photos and mementos to create a portfolio for undergraduate admissions.
Abby’s TCL practicum experience, with Ms. Merz at Odyssey Elementary during the Fall 2020 semester, took place during one of the most challenging eras in education as teachers and students alike navigated new protocols and virtual instruction due to the COVID pandemic. “COVID protocols modified these classroom experiences and all of these experiences were completed online, which was not the most ideal situation,” she observes, “but we were able to make the best of it and got great feedback on assignments.”
What she found particularly helpful was the exposure “to the layout of university assignments and my first experiences writing lesson plans and classroom management plans.” As she worked alongside her mentor navigating the challenges of a COVID classroom, what stood out was “creating a classroom management plan — because it was the first assignment that really connected me to the idea that I would have a classroom of my own someday.” In particular, her favorite moments consisted of completing assignments that mimicked exactly what a teacher would have to do with a class of their own. “I enjoyed every part of this course and would recommend it to anyone who has considered becoming a teacher. I took this course knowing I wanted to get my degree in education, and this class only solidified that for me,” she concludes.
Having completed the TCL course and FCE coursework, Abby applied for the FCE Internship at DCE. As an intern, Abby left school two hours early and then worked in a classroom as a teacher-intern. FCE instructor Stacy Peterson notes, “This internship allowed Abby to pursue her dream career in education and helped her build essential skills she would need in the workplace.”
During her senior year Abby chose to intern with Mrs. Kwick, a second grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary who clearly had had a positive impact on Abby when she was a second grader in that very same classroom nearly a decade earlier. As an intern, Abby took part in classroom observation, one-to-one tutoring, small group instruction, teaching lessons, classroom management, and recording her self-reflections. Her favorite memories center around the excitement of the students when she visited their classroom. “Week after week I got more hugs and high fives than I could even count, and it made me so happy to know that the students enjoyed working with me just as much as I enjoyed being with them.” That excitement was indicative of one of the most important takeaways from her internship — learning how important it was to develop relationships with her students during her internship and as an instructor in the before and after school DCE Adventure Care program. “Relationship making had a huge impact on my job,” she adds. “Working to create a relationship with the students to ensure they were comfortable around me made for an awesome school year.” Her teacher-mentor Mrs. Kwick specifically commented on Abby’s ability to develop impactful relationships with her students. “I had the opportunity to see Abby work with students in my classroom on many occasions and she clearly demonstrated her ability to create genuine connections with the students.”
Both Abby and Mrs. Kwick value the importance of the Teachers Change Lives course and internship program for high school students interested in the education field. “Some advice I would give to DCE students considering an education degree is to get experience as soon as you can. There are many classes offered at the Senior High to help place you for observations, and many adult resources to help guide you in the right direction to ensure this is the path you would like to get a degree in,” observes Abby.
“I feel it is beneficial for students who are pursuing a degree in education to spend time in a classroom,” Mrs. Kwick agrees. “This opportunity allows for real life experiences. Education is a job where no two days are ever the same. By providing students with an opportunity to join a classroom, this allows for a mentorship connection, builds self-confidence, and they get the opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher. They can observe classroom management, ask questions, and learn how to deliver a lesson.”
In fact, having the opportunity to mentor Ms. Sendelbach brought the education process full circle for Mrs. Kwick. “I have known Abby for 10 years. She is an extraordinary young woman and it was my pleasure to spend time with Abby as her teacher and then as a mentor. I have seen many examples of her talent and have long been impressed by her diligence and work ethic. She will be an excellent teacher.” Ms. Peterson agrees. “Abby was a model student and within the FCE internship course she was able to create a professional portfolio, envision a project, and then plan and implement it — developing the leadership skills she will need as a future educator. I look forward to seeing her become an excellent educator in the near future.”
The District’s Always an Evergreen Education talent pipeline project taps into something crucial to developing the next generation of educators — many of them seek to return to the district where they grew up. Now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, Abby is pursuing a major in Unified Special Education and Elementary/ Middle School Education. Her goal is to “become a successful teacher and hopefully someday find myself back at DCE teaching.” Further, Mrs. Kwick, who notes she couldn’t imagine having any other job, feels she is “blessed to work in the same district that I attended as a youth.” Indeed, Mrs. Kwick is herself a DCE Alumna.
It is that sentiment Mr. Aleckson — who is a former DCE instructor — seeks to tap into with the pipeline project. “My goal, then and now, is to provide our students — and alumni — with great educational experiences and opportunities to succeed.” The Always an Evergreen Educator program builds awareness among DCE alumni of practicum and career opportunities available within the District. While this effort specifically targets DCE alumni, the District does provide practicum opportunities for non-alumni as well. For aspiring educators at nearby universities, they can participate in weekly practicums, progressing from classroom observation, to working with individuals and small groups of students, to eventually taking full responsibility for a few classroom sessions. Alumni who attend a university that is farther away can complete week-long, full-day practicums during their winter and spring breaks or the District’s Summer Learning Program. This year DCE is hosting 39 practicum students completing level 1, 2 and 3 work; of these students, 13 are DCE alumni. DCE also has several secondary students completing 50-60 hour practicums to prepare for the following semester of student teaching. “ The program has had massive growth this semester,” notes Aleckson. “With the recent decline in new teachers, it’s important for us to nurture aspiring educators in our own classrooms and maintain relationships with them upon graduation so we can attract our talented students back to our classrooms — this time as educators. Once an Evergreen, always an Evergreen,” Mr. Aleckson concludes.
BUILDING A COMPREHENSIVE UNDERSTANDING OF DIVERSE ADVANCED MANUFACTURING PROCESSES
Exploring advanced manufacturing
When D.C. Everest Senior Wyatt Worthen began his youth apprenticeship with J&D Tube Benders, his goal was to gain welding experience. At the time, however, all of the welding apprenticeships were filled. “We decided to start Wyatt with the manufacturing processes,” noted Lisa Felch, Vice President, Human Resources at J&D Tube Benders. “We partnered him with our second shift team lead who came to J&D through a youth apprenticeship-type program and has been working at J&D for 13 years.” Wyatt began in J&D’s Machine Shop drilling fittings he would eventually have the opportunity to weld. He then progressed to an apprenticeship in brazing (a process that joins metals by soldering) and is currently working with the welding department. This integrated apprenticeship has not only provided Wyatt with the opportunity to gain more experience with technical drawings, it has allowed him to gain a more comprehensive understanding of J&D’s diverse manufacturing processes — custom precision pipe and tube bending, assembly fabrication, metal tube forming services, cutting and machining. As Wyatt stated, “I am gaining skills in welding, machining, and brazing, and functioning in society and a workplace around grown men in a shop/factory environment. I just try to learn as much as I possibly can each night.”
According to Ms. Felch, Wyatt’s apprenticeship has helped her think differently about the pathways of their youth program. “I think if the youth apprentice has the time, it is beneficial to first learn the manufacturing process and then complete a more specialized pathway, like welding. When a company works with a youth apprentice it provides you with an opportunity to continually evaluate your training and onboarding. It also pushes everyone working with the youth apprentice to be better. It’s so rewarding as a company to see a youth apprentice apply what they are learning directly. The growth you see from day one to the end of youth apprenticeship is amazing.” For his part, Wyatt is grateful to “be working around the types of people that I do and learning so much from them, and not just about the job but about life.”
Indeed, youth apprenticeships play an important role in redefining how youth envision career opportunities in the manufacturing sector. “When you get a youth apprentice on the shop floor you are able to change the stigma of manufacturing,” added Ms. Felch. “When it comes to manufacturing, it’s not your grandparents’ manufacturing plant. There is technology integrated in everything we do, and manufacturing shops are much cleaner and safer than in the past.” By exploring their career interests with a hands-on apprenticeship, students can see for themselves the advanced technologies used in today’s manufacturing environments. “They see the robotic welders, CNC machines, lasers and robotic arms and it usually sparks their interest even more.”
Youth apprenticeships give students a chance to explore a career and determine whether it’s a good fit for them, to learn critical skills, demonstrate professional responsibility and see what it’s like to work with area employers. Thus far, Wyatt intends to continue to pursue a career in welding. Asked what has most surprised him thus far, he noted that “one thing that has surprised me, and this may just be the company that I work for, but it surprised me how well they treat their workers and how flexible they are with schedules.”
Noting that many talk about workforce shortages in trades and manufacturing, Ms. Felch encourages companies to offer youth apprenticeships. “I believe it is the responsibility of businesses to encourage and support youth who are interested in what you do. It allows youth to truly understand what going into their chosen profession might be like.” While most of J&D’s youth apprentices stick with the field they chose for their apprenticeship, she does note that some apprentices discover that another career path is better suited for them. One of their apprentices also helped build a Habitat for Humanity home at D.C. Everest and realized he was more interested in home construction. “We fully supported his decision and actually helped him in his job search while still allowing him to work at J&D.”
Ms. Felch encourages students considering a youth apprenticeship to participate. “It is a great way to explore careers, better understand employers’ expectations and experience different work environments and cultures. Not only do you learn a skill but you start to learn what you are looking for in a job. Do you want to work for a small company? A large company? Do you want to do the same thing every day or have variety?”
As for employers considering hiring youth apprentices, she concludes with this. “When you bring a youth apprentice into your business it gives you the opportunity to mentor someone into being the best employee. Not only do they learn how to be a great welder, etc., but if you do it right they learn how to be a great employee and hopefully they stick around after the youth apprenticeship is completed.”
MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL ASPECTS OF YOUTH APPRENTICESHIP EXPERIENCES
Fresh Eyes, Fresh Perspective
With a decade of experience in the Youth Apprenticeship program, CTech Manufacturing is well aware of the mutually beneficial advantages of providing high school youth with the opportunity to gain real-world experience within their organization. “We have found the experience to be very gratifying for both us, as the employer, as well as the students,” states Mike Greenheck, Vice President of CTech Manufacturing. “ I highly recommend any business to take advantage of the YA program. Our main focus at CTech is transforming the mindset of traditional manufacturing to prove it can be something high-tech that pays well and provides fun challenges. The program exposes the students to a wide variety of successful career choices in the Wausau area that are available, preventing young talent from moving outside of the area.”
Case in point is Eddie Zynda, a senior at D.C. Everest Senior High, whose career aspirations include becoming a welder in either the boilermaker trade or pipe-fitter/steam-fitter trade.
“Thanks to my youth apprenticeship opportunity at CTech,” he notes,” I have been professionally welding for the past nine months.” Eddie has researched his career options and is well aware of the advantage he gains by acquiring welding skills in advance of graduating — especially his experience with TIG welding. “Both of these trade areas offer very specific training through their unions. I would start off as an apprentice and work my way to journeyman status. TIG welding is difficult and not many people are able to do it, especially at my age. Everyday I am learning new things and how to make my welds better. TIG welding is a critical skill that is necessary for the trades I am interested in.” To garner the most from a youth apprenticeship program — for both the business and the student — Mr. Greenheck notes that “a successful apprenticeship requires much more thought and planning than just offering them daily tasks.” When Eddie approached CTech Manufacturing about his interest in welding, they had an immediate position available. And although Eddie contributes his time primarily toward production welding of the drawers used throughout all of CTech’s products, his experience isn’t limited to welding. “We often provide the students with an understanding of operations both upstream and downstream of their particular area, so they have a global understanding of the problem and how they approach the solution. We like to see how the students can problem solve in a real world setting. In Eddie’s case, he was trained with the basic principles of TIG welding by having him shadow some of our senior employees. With that knowledge, we left it up to Eddie to determine the most efficient way to hit his production goals and keep the production process flowing smoothly in his department. He is now a very proficient welder and can often exceed our production goals.” In fact, Eddie notes that some of his favorite moments have been that flexibility. “When I was not welding, I liked that I was able to move around the shop learning more about the company and how these wonderful cabinets and drawers are made… it was neat to see how the people at CTech would go about solving problems.”
By providing youth apprentices with a comprehensive experience, the student acquires real world problem-solving skills that can’t necessarily be replicated in a classroom. “The students are typically challenged with tasks that require participation in multiple areas of the business to provide them with a better context for the problem,” adds Mr. Greenheck. “We have found their solutions often exceed our expectations, and provide them with a much better appreciation and understanding for manufacturing, engineering, and business.” At the same time, the company also gains insights critical to their operations. Mr. Greenheck continues, “Another advantage to the program is that the students can put a fresh set of eyes on the task with no previous experiences or perspectives. We find this often highlights the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of a process to the management group. We take the student’s feedback seriously and often pivot quickly to make a process more efficient based on their comments.”
It’s clear CTech’s respect for the perspectives of the next workforce generation have created a welcoming environment for the students. Eddie acknowledges one of the biggest challenges he’s faced as a youth apprentice has been “balancing my school, sports, work, and social life.” But, he recognizes, “CTech has been great and very flexible with everything I have going on.” Further, he feels like a welcome member of the group noting his love for muscle cars is echoed by others throughout the company. And he takes pride in his contributions to the company adding that his most memorable moment thus far has been “the first time I got to weld on an actual product that went out into the world versus just practicing my welds.” Youth apprenticeships also help students gain an awareness of the global reach of companies in our area, which make career prospects appealing to the next generation. During his experience, Eddie has discovered CTech produces cabinetry for a number of famous and important customers.
While Eddie already has some career prospects in mind, he’s also considering pursuing a degree in welding through Northcentral Technical College. On-the-job experiences also help drive home the importance of education. “I am proud to say the experiences we have provided our apprentices have given them a confident career path going into either college or the workforce, whether it was in manufacturing or not,” adds Mr. Greenheck. “Most of our apprentices are often the top of their classes in their post-high school studies because the experience has provided them with a better understanding of why a subject is necessary in the real world. It can reinforce what they plan to do after high school, and often makes their courses more relatable.”
Ultimately, youth apprenticeships are of great value to both businesses and students. For the students, it’s an opportunity to learn more about career opportunities in their hometown and what appeals to them in the broader world. For businesses, they gain fresh insights into the perspectives of their up-and-coming workforce and the opportunity to attract talent prior to graduation. According to Mr. Greenheck, career exploration is a critical component of youth apprenticeships. “The YA program is important for students because it can provide them with a better appreciation for the field of their choice and truly gives an opportunity to find your passion. It can also reinforce what you may NOT want to do after high school, so I think both aspects are important for a student.” He concludes, “We often tell our apprentices to be vocal about their role in the company. If they are not passionate about what they are doing, we have plenty of other opportunities that they can try within our organization to see if it may be a better fit. It gives the student a great trial before entering the workforce, and provides our company with a hopeful employee that is ready to hit the ground running as soon as they are hired. I can almost guarantee them a full-time position at our company after they graduate.”