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Apprenticeships Soar With School-Based Career Coaches

Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson

The Ahnapee Youth Apprenticeship Consortium in northeastern Wisconsin is placing a jaw-dropping average of 25 percent of its juniors and seniors in Youth Apprenticeship (YA)—a sharp contrast to the 4.5 percent average statewide. The consortium includes Luxemburg-Casco (LC), Kewaunee, and the five high schools in Door County. The secret? School-based career coaches. It’s a new role that is reshaping how business and education work together to prepare students for life after high school.   

The school-based career coach is essentially a YA coordinator, who is physically relocated from a CESA into a school and is dedicated to working with students on career readiness. According to Jennifer Johnson, Director of the Consortium, the job involves “working with students to help them identify, first and foremost, who they are as an individual and then how that correlates to various types of positions. … You can't have a solid youth apprenticeship program if you don't have that strong Academic and Career Planning (ACP) focus in the front.”

Joey Chervenka
Joey Chervenka

As a result, the scope of school-based coaches has grown to include supporting or coordinating ACP in the schools where they work. For example, when a Xello assessment indicated that LC student Joey Chervenka should go into jewelry design, he was disappointed with the result. His career coach reframed the results for him, saying the assessment indicated that he was creative and might like hands-on intricate work, but maybe “jewelry designer” missed the mark. Subsequently, he decided to try welding.

“Then we really work to partner with various businesses and the community to provide them some of those job shadowing opportunities or ultimately that capstone experience of a youth apprenticeship or an internship,” she adds.

Erica Janisch
Erica Janisch

Erica Janisch, school-based coach at Kewaunee High School, says “We are not only working directly with the students, but we're also working directly with … school counselors, with the academic and career planning [ACP] committees. We're part of all of those organizations within the school to truly make this a part of the school.”

Mentoring is central to the position. One of Janisch’s students, a shy girl who lacked confidence, wanted to work with kids. She was placed at a local daycare, but the student was later terminated. “Since I was able to get all of the feedback from her employer … she and I sat down and worked through what the problems were,” says Janisch.

“We were able to have her apply to another daycare,” she says. The student was “incredibly successful there. [And the new employer] paid for all of her courses to become a certified daycare teacher.” The experience went from being just a “low-point” to a “true learning experience.”

The YA placement rate at Kewaunee is 33 percent, reports Janisch proudly. “We have a larger percentage of student success rate because we're actually building that rapport with the students.”

The Ahnapee Consortium has been so successful that it is adding the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce and CESA 7 to create the Northeast Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship consortium, or NEWYA, as of July 1, 2022.

Jennifer Johnson is more than enthusiastic about the new venture. “This is a potential solution to the workforce shortage that we're experiencing in the state of Wisconsin as well and really helping businesses see that, if we partner, we're building this future workforce.”