De Pere high school program trains, pays students

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Andrew Ferron doesn’t pick up a pencil or boot up a computer for most of his school day. Rather, he grabs a torch and puts on a welding helmet.

The West De Pere High School senior is one of 11 students enrolled in an apprenticeship program launched this school year, called the Trades Career Academy, offered by the West De Pere and De Pere school districts for kids who are interested in a skilled trade after graduation. The students spend two hours in “school” and the remainder of their day working in one of six De Pere businesses, doing machining, welding, engineering or other similar duties.

“I like working with my hands,” said Ferron, who works at Robinson Metal in De Pere. “I get to do a little bit of everything.”

School administrators throughout the state see the benefit of finding a high school fit for students such as Ferron, who do not plan to attend a four-year college but will need training for their future jobs in trades. And businesses, in need of qualified workers, increasingly are willing to partner with schools to prepare students. The Green Bay Area Chamber also coordinates the youth apprenticeship programs. Students earn high school credit and a paycheck as part of the deal, and some will be hired by the companies they work for full-time after high school. Others may use the experience as stepping stone to a technical college associate or certificate program.

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