Career Exploration: Youth Apprenticeship

Years ago, I wandered into our local Chamber of Commerce to pick up some brochures on things to do in our area for some visitors we were having. I happened to find a brochure regarding the Youth Apprenticeship Program. It described how high school students can learn a career choice while on the job, and receive both high school and college credit. I knew right then and there that this would be a part of our family’s future. What a great opportunity!

In Wisconsin, the Youth Apprenticeship program is part of the state’s Work Force Development department. They work in collaboration with the US Department of Labor to offer the program in more than 25 states and territories. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they also have specific programs for students with disabilities. More than 950 different occupations are currently offered nationwide. Incredible!

The ultimate question for us was, can a home schooled student be a part of this program? In our state it is decided by each school district. Our Madison area district allows home schooled students, but some of the suburban districts do not. I would encourage you to apply regardless of the local policy. We have friends who applied, were turned down for no other reason other than they were home schooled, appealed, and then were accepted into the program. You just never know, so be persistent.

Interestingly enough, the College Board website (, which administers the SAT, CLEP, AP and PSAT tests, recommends an internship program as one of the best ways to get into college. Job skills and college credit are extremely important, especially for a home schooled student who may not have the traditional academic record a public school student has.

In our city of 233,000 people, only 25 students were registered for this program last year, but there are more than 70 applicants for next year. I can’t believe more people aren’t taking advantage of this program. But, it is definitely growing.

Part of the reason our son entered public school was to learn auto mechanics. We knew this was an area he would probably have to learn from someone else. The Auto Mechanic Technician position is just one of the career choices the Youth Apprenticeship program offers. Here are some of the other options:

Auto Collision
Drafting and Design: Architure, Engineering, Mechanical
Graphic Arts: Printing
Health Services
Hospitality, Lodging, Tourism
Information Technology: Computer Science, Networking
Industrial Equipment
Logistics (Freight Movement)
Production Agriculture: Animals, Soils and Crops

There is a great need for students to enter into these programs, particularly in the automotive field. This is our son in his Honda uniform, I love guys in uniforms, did I mention that? Anyway, there were only a couple of applicants in the automotive area, so he was able to get a job right away. Some of the other students are still awaiting job placement in more popular areas such as Engineering. Due to the slow economy, it would be beneficial to contact your local representative to find out which career areas have the most likely job placement.

So how do you apply for the program? Students fill out an application in March of their sophomore year. Two letters of recommendation are required with submission to the local Chamber of Commerce Coordinator for approval. After acceptance, there will be an informational meeting, and then the applicants are forwarded to local businesses for interviews. This is also a great opportunity to learn interview skills!

Employers will work with the schools to design a work schedule that works for them. Students are required to work 12-15 hours per week, and have specific skill requirements they will learn on the job. Home schooled students have an advantage with flexible schedules. Our son was able to work with the school to re-arrange his class schedule around his work schedule. He works before school until mid-morning, then goes to classes so he can still participate in after school sports. He has taken 2 automotive classes during the last year (some in the evenings) and next year will have a class at our local technical college. When the two year program is over, he will have a certification as an Automotive Technician. Cool, huh?

How much does this program cost? Get this, NOTHING! It’s all funded by universities, schools, businesses and the Department of Work Force Development. We have not had any fees at all. Amazing! However, as a home schooled student, this may vary.

Another fabulous way to learn so many important skills for students. Getting both high school and college credit is such an added bonus. Our son was interviewed for the local paper and this is what he had to say regarding the program:

“Serving as an Automotive Technician has taught me how to get along with other people on the job, and allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom.” What a great experience!

You can read more about the Youth Apprenticeship programs at the following websites: This is the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Site Lists all the available career options in WI This is general information regarding the program for students with disabilities.

Additional program information can be found through your local Chamber of Commerce, public school district, or on your state’s government website.

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