Quad-Cities High Schools, Companies Celebrate New Apprentices
Taking a page from the college sports signing days, there will be a signing day Monday celebrating Quad-Cities academic and career excellence.
The invitation-only event is the Quad-Cities-Wide High School Apprenticeship Day, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, April 19, at the Waterfront Convention Center, 2021 State St., Bettendorf. Q-C schools and the companies that will host their apprentices will celebrate the efforts of
their 50-plus 2021 apprentices, all energetic young people, excited about their futures.
The apprentices are from schools all over the Q-C, including Davenport, Rock Island, Moline, North Scott, Pleasant Valley, and United Township. The number of apprentices has exploded — from nine welding students chosen the first year, 2019, from North Scott and Davenport schools, said Jennifer Boyd, career tech education curriculum specialist for the Davenport Community School District.
Last year, while there was no signing day event, expanded to welding and CNC machining apprentices, about 20 altogether. This year, the number of occupations for primarily high-school juniors, has grown to include software engineer, electronics systems technician, bank teller, and certified nursing assistant, Boyd said.
“We’re not openly inviting crowds, but we do want awareness out there,” she said Friday of the signing event. “That’s another reason we’re doing this, so that everyone knows what we’re trying to do here in the Quad-Cities as a full community, on both sides of the river to address these regional issues.”
The community will learn how apprenticeships can offer students powerful technical and professional skills to help them build a competitive advantage.
Students who pursue apprenticeships set the stage for future success by developing needed long-term skills. On Signing Day, future industry leaders take vital first steps toward success, according to a Davenport Schools release. Students are on their way to establishing meaningful careers in which they can take pride.
An apprenticeship is a chance for students to gain technical and professional skills through related training with their schools and on-the-job learning with partner companies.
Apprenticeships prepare students for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers. The courses and pathways provide students with the academic and technical skills, knowledge, and training necessary to succeed in future careers, and are aligned to industry standards and needs within our community.
For Monday’s event, the chosen student apprentices can each invite two guests and safety steps will be observed to protect attendees, including masks, sanitizer, and social distancing. Students and their guests can talk with teachers about apprenticeships and visit tables hosted by company representatives and network with these potential employers.
Over 15 companies in the Q-C region are hosting apprentices, either with current placements or placements set to start this summer. These companies represent manufacturing, security, IT, healthcare, and banking and include John Deere, Per Mar, Musco Lighting, Eckhart, Midwest Alarms, MA Ford, and more.
“Talent development is important for the economic success and future growth of a region,” Quad Cities Chamber spokeswoman Erin Platt said Friday. “That’s why a Quad-Cities collective of education and industry partners are working together to proactively come up with creative solutions to build the talent pipeline for our region.”
In a typical apprenticeship, the students work full-time for a company, and during their senior year, they go to school half the day and they work with a company half the day, Boyd said.
“So they work part-time throughout their senior year, and after they graduate they continue working full-time with the company,” she said, noting apprenticeships can vary from 2,000 hours to 8,000 hours before becoming a full-time employee.
“However, in addition to that, the apprentices have to show proficiency and agreed upon competence on the job,” Boyd said. “All of these programs will take kids past high school graduation and with the school districts, we support those students even after they graduate high school, which is really a pretty cool support system for students that leave our hallways.”
The school districts keep in touch with the companies and students after graduation, monitoring all of their proficiencies and competencies, she said.
“If there’s any issues, the companies can reach out to the teacher who is overseeing the program and they’ll help work through any problems,” Boyd said. “It’s just kind of an added layer of support instead of just saying you graduated, good luck and you graduated. Here’s a little bit more support as you figure it out.”
There’s no requirement by the company to offer apprentices a full position, she noted, but the chances are good.
“Odds are they will, because they’ve invested all this time, you know training these students,” Boyd said. “They built this relationship and they’ve really they’ve built company loyalty, which is a huge perk and benefit to these companies. They get to get a 16-year-old kid in the door and really get them trained the way they want them and help them understand the value of being a part of that company so that they can grow within it. It’s a just a pipeline.”
Apprentice training down to 8th grade
All of the apprenticeships require some degree of related training, which is what happens at high schools, Boyd said, noting some classwork is at community college level.
“The partners get to review all of it, interview students and then select candidates that they feel will be the best fit for their company,” she said. “We’re going to give you whoever we think is good. It’s really driven by our partners and they have all of that opportunity.
“We are actively working to create a talent machine,” Boyd said. “We are trying to pull together education and workforce development and really have a strategic choice that we are filling this workforce pipeline. It’s so often we have gaps in our workforce.
“We have clear areas of need and a lot of times before something like this was established, we would just kind of get emails, companies would email the high school and say if you have anybody who’d be a good fit for this?” she said.
“I’m from Davenport schools and we have a graduation problem,” Boyd said. “Our students aren’t all graduating and finding success after graduation. And so this is really a strategic system that is fulfilling the needs of not only our students being successful post-graduation, but our companies being able to have this pipeline of qualified workers wage to do the work that needs to be done.
“We are almost at a point where we have more apprentices than we have partnered businesses to put them in — which is kind of a crazy sort of odd situation to be dealing with, but ultimately this is a proactive solution to a lot of issues that we face as a Quad-City region,” she said.
In Davenport, they also recruit students in 8th grade to the career tech program, and they will have a signing day for 8th graders on May 3.
“We tell them if you take this program, it could lead to this amazing opportunity at the apprenticeship and when you’re in, you have to be ready to spend half your day on a job site, which creates kind of a motivation in our students to say — Well, I can’t screw around and just fail algebra four times,” Boyd said. “I’m not going to be able to do the apprenticeship. Like I need to get it together.”
“So it’s a motivator and it’s increasing engagement and it’s healthy,” she said.
“In Davenport schools, we’ve really started trying to help students off at the end of the tunnel to look at their future and give themselves some sort of a goal to move towards,” Boyd said of working with 8th graders. “If you don’t have something you’re going towards, it makes the work
that you’re doing seem meaningless and that’s you know, a huge thing that we see with our high school dropouts.
“We want our students to have something they’re working towards and if they decide in 8th grade, they want to work towards being a software engineer, they can choose that next 9th grade, they can take the classes. Then they can say, this is not what I want to do and they can change it.”
“It’s not a forever decision; it’s a for now decision, but our students have 14 career tech programs of study,” Boyd said. “We show them a video and talk about the opportunities that are available in our career tech programs and the students can apply to be a part of those and often they apply for it.
“They literally give us their name the school they’re going to go to and what program they want, because we firmly believe that if you had discipline issues or your grades were terrible, we believe that if you really want something if you have a goal you’re going to make it happen, and so there’s really no parameters on who gets in and when students are part of our career tech programs,” she said. Those 8th graders will get priority scheduling in the courses, and additional work based learning experiences,” including talks from company managers, Boyd said. This is also the third year of recruiting 8th graders in Davenport for career tech, she said.
Virtual speaker open to all
As part of the apprenticeship celebration, everyone is invited online Tuesday, April 20 to a 7 p.m. motivational event, “QC Call to Action.”
The Zoom-based online event can be accessed through the link, www.tinyurl.com/QCCalltoAction. This virtual presentation by speaker and author Mark C. Perna is entitled Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in the Younger Generation, based on his 2018 book of the same name.
Perna is the founder and CEO of TFS Results in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic communications and consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development. As an international expert on the millennial and Z generations, Perna has devoted his career to empowering educators and employers to unleash the tremendous potential of today’s young people.
Boyd has heard him speak multiple times. “But every time I take something new away from it,” she said. “He is very dynamic; his message resonates with students, parents, employers, community leaders, stakeholders, and anyone else. There is something to take away from his message. It is highly engaging, highly impactful. He is probably one of the top three best speakers I’ve ever heard.”
To learn more about the speaker, visit www.markcperna.com.