07/18/07 — Businesses can help students learn trades

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Businesses can help students learn trades

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 18, 2007 1:45 PM

Wayne County Public Schools is seeking local businesses to help grow their own future employees.

A high school apprentice program is being launched in the fall, said Erlene Brogden, lead teacher for work-based learning. Over the summer months, her office is busily canvassing for businesses interested in sponsoring students for employment.

The three-way partnership between the school system, businesses and N.C. Department of Labor is designed to offer opportunities to learn specialized skills that will be needed in the workforce, Ms. Brogden said.

Schools across the state have long offered vocational training as part of the curriculum. Wayne County students have also been afforded work-based learning situations in a variety of fields, through co-op arrangements and internships as well as job shadowing.

Providing paid on-the-job training will only serve to enhance readiness for employment, she said.

"Now we just have to match (students) up with businesses to give them experience and hopefully entice them to enter those fields," she said.

The apprenticeship program will be rigorous, she added.

Students must be at least 16 years old and available to work afternoons, after school, on weekends and summers. The program is designed to start in their junior year and run through their senior year, Ms. Brogden said.

In turn, businesses must pay at least minimum wage and provide Workers Compensation. There are also safety guidelines that must be met.

Making the best possible match is tantamount, Ms. Brogden said.

"We're going to try to get through and make sure the student is really interested before we send them out to the business," she said.

One area of need from the business community is in home-building, specifically masonry and cabinet-making, Ms. Brogden said.

"We're trying to build on that. There are just not enough people out there to do the work,' she said. "We do have students that are interested in those trades."

Other areas students have requested include forestry and landscaping, farming, accounting, business and real estate.

"I feel like if we could just get connected with the business and get a student's foot in the door, they'll be sold on the program," she said.

Long-term, it can be a win-win, Ms. Brogden said, benefiting both the employers as well as future employees.

"It could build up the workforce locally and hopefully keep some of our good strong students in this area," she said.

For more information on the high school apprenticeship program, call 705-6187.