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|Wednesday, May 5, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
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DWD News Office
WORK BASED LEARNING BOARD NEEDED
TO DEVELOP SKILLED WORKFORCE
MADISONStreamlining Wisconsins tripartite school-to-work program is essential for building a skilled workforce, state workforce development officials said today.
To meet Wisconsins compelling need for more skilled workers, Governor Tommy G. Thompsons biennial budget proposes a state Work-Based Learning Board to unify the funding and management of the states school-to-work programs. The board will coordinate and refocus school to work programs that now are dispersed among three separate state agencies. Coordinating these efforts is essential to strengthening and expanding Wisconsins nationally recognized Youth Apprenticeship program.
"Wisconsins pioneering youth apprenticeship program has been a model for the nation," said Governor Tommy G. Thompson. "Now is the time to take it to the next level. We need to re-focus our energy and resources on improving and expanding Youth Apprenticeship to provide the skills our students need to succeed."
Governor Thompson has proposed expanding the Youth Apprenticeship program to 5,000 students by the 2000-2001 school year, up from the current 1,314.
Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to establish a comprehensive Youth Apprenticeship program, when the Governor signed it into law in 1992. The program was used as a model by the federal government to develop the national School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) in 1994. Wisconsin was one of only eight states to receive a grant of $27 million from STWOA in 1994. However, no other federal funds have been allocated to continue youth apprenticeship and other school-to-work programs when funding ends this October.
"This reduction in federal funds means we must act now to streamline bureaucracy and better utilize the funding we do have, said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. "The Governors Work-Based Learning Board will better coordinate existing resources to make sure our students get the skills they need and employers the workers they need for the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow. If we fail to act, Wisconsins Youth Apprenticeship program will be in serious jeopardy."
Currently, three different agencies, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Wisconsin Technical College System oversee school-to-work programs. DPI is primarily responsible for developing integrated and applied curriculum products along with implementing some of work-based learning programs and career development activities. The Technical College System provides support for the Tech Prep consortia, administers Wisconsins youth options program, and assists in the development of postsecondary articulation agreements. DWD is the fiscal agent for Wisconsins STWOA grant and also administers the youth apprenticeship and career counseling programs.
The Work Based Learning Board will coordinate the activities and available funding sources of the three primary agencies that are involved in providing state school-to-work programs, and expand the Apprenticeship and Training program into areas of high demand skilled labor shortages. Funding sources transferred to the Board from the three agencies would include GPR, federal Carl Perkins Act and federal TANF funds.
The proposed nine member governing board will consist of the Governor, the DPI Superintendent, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTSC) Board President, the WTCS Board Director, the DWD Secretary, the Division of Workforce Excellence Administrator, an organized labor representative, a business and industry representative, and a public representative.
"Governor Thompsons goal of 5,000 youth apprentices will not be realized without a focussed, concerted effort and targeting of resources," Stewart said. "To achieve the Governors goal, this board must become a reality. We need to eliminate bureaucratic turf battles and focus our resources on what works."
Federal funds, including the now-expired $27 million federal grant, allowed Wisconsin to experiment with a variety of school-to-work approaches spread among three different state agencies. Over the last five years, federal funds have supported over 260,000 students who have participated in some aspect of school-to-work. Participation in job shadowing experiences grew from 11,266 in 19995 students to over 28,000 students in 1998. In 1995, 24,583 students had developed career plans; in 1998 that number had risen to 52,478. Likewise, the number of students participating in integrated and applied courses increased from 40,000 students in 1995 to almost 99,000 in 1998.
A recent study by the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Policy Research Institute found fault with some of the school-to-work experiments funded with the federal dollars, but also recommended expansion of work-based learning programs such as Youth Apprenticeship.
Although the report questioned the success of some hard-to-measure school to work initiatives such as job-shadowing and job-mentoring, it recommended that the state "emphasize articulated technical studies and work-based learning," which the Governors Work-Based Learning Board is created to do.
In crediting the success of the states Youth Apprenticeship program, the study notes that these types of "apprenticeship and co-op work experiences help students to connect with a world of norms and practices outside of the (K-12) world." Indeed, other studies of the Youth Apprenticeship program report employer satisfaction with the program at 90 percent, while 96 percent of graduates report an intention to pursue postsecondary education, often while continuing to work in their Youth Apprenticeship skill area. Moreover, Youth Apprenticeship graduates who have entered the UW System or technical colleges maintained grade point averages that are higher or equal to other beginning freshmen.
"Both a strong academic foundation and technical know-how are necessary for todays workplace," said DWD Secretary Linda Stewart. "By combining rigorous school and work based learning opportunities with enhanced career exploration and guidance, Wisconsins students are better prepared to take advantage of any and all opportunities. They can enroll in a university, enter a technical college or go directly into the workforce. The best jobs will go to those who are both well-educated and highly skilled."
Governor Thompson first established the Youth Apprenticeship program in response to recommendations by the Commission for a Quality Workforce, which found that 80% of future jobs require high-skill technical training rather than a traditional four-year college degree. In 1998, DWD hosted five Workforce Forums across the state to address the states labor shortage. Business leaders at the forums overwhelmingly recommended strengthening and expanding Wisconsins youth apprenticeship program. Also in 1998, DWDs Division of Connecting Education and Work conducted seven Youth Apprenticeship Employer Forums in which over 300 employers and educators attended and recommended the state provide funding to expand the program and develop multiple program models.
"Expanding the youth apprenticeship program is a vital part of our strategy to build the skilled workforce Wisconsin needs," Governor Thompson said in reaction to the forum results. "It is a lynchpin of Wisconsins workforce development strategy to better prepare students for entry in the workforce and global marketplace of the 21st century."
Since its inception in 1992, the Youth Apprenticeship program has partnered with over 1,000 employers to provide work-based learning in community laboratories for youth apprentices. Over fourteen state and national industry groups support and promote the school-youth-business partnership.
"The Youth Apprenticeship program has been a very positive and beneficial experience to all parties involved," said Mike Grady, Training Coordinator of Jefferson-based Generac
Portable Products, LLC, producer of portable generators and pressure washers. "We are helping kids who werent able to connect the traditional textbook theory from the classroom to real-life application in a job or career setting. Were doing our part to build the skilled workforce we need to continue to grow and create jobs in Southeast Wisconsin."
The Youth Apprenticeship program is a two-year elective program for high-school students combining academic and technical classroom instruction with on-the-job training. The program allows high school juniors and seniors to combine traditional school-based learning with mentored learning at local businesses and industries. Students attend classes during the morning then apply their chosen craft in a place of business in the afternoon. Students are paid at least minimum wage, receive a high school diploma, and earn a certificate of mastery in the particular skill area.
In 1992, the first year of the program, 21 students worked as youth apprentices in the printing industry. Today 1,314 students are learning as youth apprentices in 18 different industry areas such as auto technology, printing, architectural drafting, mechanical design and tourism. However, enrollment in the youth apprenticeship program has leveled off at approximately 1,350 students due to the uncertainty about program funding. If the Work-Based Learning Board does not pass in the budget, DWD anticipates a sharp drop in youth apprentice enrollment and a non-renewal of youth apprentice coordinator positions.