Commentary: Local companies open doors to youth apprenticeships

Commentary: Local companies open doors to youth apprenticeships

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The Academies of Racine are work-based learning programs established at each of the three large public high schools in Racine. A variety of career-based curriculum and experiential learning activities are part and parcel of the structure of the Academies. Business, Culinary Arts, Trades, Health Services, JROTC, Automotive and others are among the career pathways the students focus on, especially in their last two years of high school.

The structure, planning and implementation of the Academies of Racine has been underway since 2015 and the graduating class of 2020 will be the first to have completed all four years of the program. As part of their education, many of them will have had the opportunity to participate in the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The Youth Apprenticeship Program has existed in the Racine Unified School District since 1994 and is designed for high school students to experience hands-on learning at the worksite in conjunction with their classroom instruction.

Racine Area Manufacturing and Commerce (RAMAC) is committed to the Youth Apprenticeship program. Since the beginning, RAMAC has written for and awarded a grant through the auspices of the Department of Workforce Development ensuring the Youth Apprenticeship continues to grow and prepare trained and career-ready local talent.

Our high school students are getting real work experience and providing real value as they take their first steps on their career path. Currently RUSD has over 120 youth apprentices working at 56 Racine-area companies, such as InSinkErator, Cree, Racine Metal Fab and Modine Manufacturing among others.

From a business point of view, the Youth Apprenticeship Program offers specific advantages: additional hands-on apprentices who, through their choice of Academy, have already expressed an interest in their industry; apprentices who can bring with them an educated and fresh willingness to learn and add to the existing workforce. And, ultimately, the business has a prospective employee ready and able to start his or her career already on-boarded, familiar with the existing culture and a known entity to the hiring manager and human resources representative. That’s a win from every perspective.

The success stories I hear reinforce my commitment to the Youth Apprenticeship program through the Academies of Racine. With this program, we have education supporting career and/or college readiness for our high school students and local businesses supporting our schools with an end goal of hiring local talent. And the timing couldn’t be better. We know there is a shortage of workers in Racine, magnified now with the preparation for and introduction of Foxconn to our local economy. It is, therefore, more important than ever to provide our kids with an opportunity for real work experience and training. They are, after all, the workforce of our future.

As Racine’s business champion, RAMAC is happy to continue to support the Youth Apprenticeship Program and encourage more businesses, large and small, to consider taking on apprentices through the Youth Apprenticeship Program. Make a difference in their lives, your business and our community.

Matt Montemurro is president and CEO of Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce.


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