WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) - Programs connecting high schoolers with career opportunities will receive more state grant money than ever before.
Gov. Walker announced a record $3.9 million will go to 33 consortiums across the state to fund youth apprenticeships.
CESA #4 in West Salem connects area school districts with local businesses, so juniors and seniors can start working in fields ranging from agriculture to manufacturing to finance.
The consortium is receiving $95,400 of the state grant to continue its efforts, which representatives said have only grown over the years as the state places more importance on youth apprenticeships.
At 1st Community Credit Union in West Salem, to-be high school senior Nate Krien is bumping up his work hours thanks to the start of summer vacation.
He works as an apprentice bank teller, counting cash and helping out customers.
“It's something I'm definitely fortunate to be able to do,” Krien said.
He's also branched out to learning about marketing as well as lending and loans.
"Getting the experience in the field is something not a lot of students get to do,” Krien said. “Students often say they want to be a doctor or an engineer, but they've never been a part-time doctor or part-time engineer."
As an apprentice, Krien's mentor is branch manager Mike Lorenz.
"He's been doing a great job for us the last year or so,” he said.
Lorenz works with the West Salem school district and CESA #4 to make sure youth apprenticeship criteria is met, such as a minimum number of 450 work hours per year.
"Students have to be paid minimum wage by employers so there's an investment there too,” CESA #4 career and technical education director Sherri Torkelson said.
Torkelson said the consortium has gone from working with about five districts and 17 students in 2013, to 17 districts and now more than 100 students going into their fifth year of the program.
"We've expanded greatly, a lot to do with changes at state level,” Torkelson said. “Governor Walker is a strong supporter of these funds, so the state Legislature continues to support it and has increased financial support for it over the last several years.”
Torkelson said she’s expecting the consortium to add more districts and students to the youth apprenticeship program.
She said apprenticeships connect businesses with employees and help students like Krien decide on a career.
"This is definitely something I could see myself doing in the future,” Krien said.
As part of the youth apprenticeship program, students must also integrate their work hours with related classwork either at their high school or a tech college.
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