When I was in high school, I was told that successful career paths were either by going to college, or… really, just by going to college. Sure I had a friend with a military appointment, and a few others who were going into the service, but the options were pretty much college, or…. When I started teaching CTE in high school, I am glad that the narrative has changed.
After my first year teaching engineering, I was approached by my CTE director about an opportunity for our students that would also include a PD position for a couple of teachers. The district had worked with a local manufacturing company called Mikron to provide an internship-to-apprenticeship experience for our students. Students would participate in a paid 6-week summer internship the summer before their senior year. After that, a small number of those students would be selected to be a part of an apprenticeship. They would work for school credit during their senior year. After the students graduate, they would be employed at Mikron for an additional two years. During that time Mikron would support the students in getting an appropriate associates degree. When the students are done with their three years, they have an option of staying with the company as an upper-level technician.
Mikron and the district wanted to have teacher eyes on the process. I was lucky enough to be one of the two selected for their pilot cohort. We worked the same jobs and activities that the students did. We learned the culture of the company, and were liaisons between the two.
We needed to see if the students could handle the work. We needed to see what kinds of people would be good for the program. What the students were doing on the shop floor was exactly what I was wanting to do as a career, and I thought I needed college to get there. Yes, the students needed to be intelligent with technical aptitude, but the best students for the program were those who did not necessarily have college in mind.
We saw the students grow. Not only learning the skills on the job, but also learning the other professional skills necessary to be successful at a job. After that first summer, I saw one of the students talk on the same stage as the Governor and the Secretary of Labor. I attended an apprenticeship event at NPS in 2019 where another of those first students talked at the Swiss embassy in Washington DC. Mikron is dedicated to our students’ careers and their futures.
Mikron is partnered with the district through their apprenticeship program for 5 years this summer. I am grateful that they not only give our students this opportunity with their company, but they also allow us to change the narrative on what success can look like after high school. These students have the opportunity to see the job before they dive $100,000 deep into college. The district has since made more industry partnerships with the experience we gained. Mikron’s partnership with our district has changed the way we think about careers and success as a community.