Pathway to a Successful Future: Students Earn While They Learn

There are not many better ways to get employed than to already know how to do the job you are applying for. Thanks to the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA), local students are being given the opportunity to do just that, by way of apprenticeships.

KRESA manages the Career and Technical Education (CTE) grant in Kalamazoo County, and when partnered with the State Apprenticeship Expansion (SAE) grant award through Michigan Works! Southwest, students experience hands-on learning alongside a mentor. There is a focus on retention and program completion and to assist those efforts, the students also receive wraparound services, such as career coaching and mileage reimbursement.

Lisa Smith, CareerNOW Program Coordinator, says the apprenticeship program has been very well received when information is presented in the classrooms. The big draw is that students enrolled in the apprenticeships program are paid a wage. “They [the students] get very excited that there’s additional training opportunities beyond high school,” she said. “Apprenticeship [is] an option to earn while they’re learning their trade, but they get to put it into practice and work on a job under a mentor.”

Smith also mentioned that another benefit of the program is the availability of industry tours, which allows the students the opportunity to be immersed in different areas of interest.

The program has already experienced success, with the inaugural two participants being hired by KRESA after completion. They were both CTE students, one enrolled in Information Technology and the other enrolled in Computer Science. Both started as interns in the pre-apprenticeship model program and then moved on into the apprenticeship model, before ultimately graduating and earning full-time employment.

KRESA is currently working with CTE program employers who already have apprenticeship training programs embedded in their business, to explore how to better move the CTE students into the apprenticeship training. “Healthcare, skilled trades, teacher academy/early childhood education,” Smith said. According to Jeni Opel, Career Development Team Administrator, there are currently 25 planned industry recognized credentials with 21 courses, and that is just at KRESA’s central location.

For those not quite ready for the CTE and SAE partnership, KRESA also collaborates with other support programs for youth who need additional barrier navigation, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program, another grant through Michigan Works! Southwest, as well as offering various on-site resources.