GREEN BAY, Wis. — With the help of the physical therapy staff at Bellin Health, Josie Steen is getting an inside look at what it takes to do the job.

What You Need To Know

  • Youth apprenticeship programs allow students to get an up-close look at careers

  • Students earn school credit, pay and experience through the program

  • The number of students and employers in Wisconsin programs are at record highs

A senior at Pulaski High School, she’s getting this opportunity through a youth apprenticeship program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

“I’ve been working as a rehabilitation aide,” Steeno said. “That’s given me a lot of skills like learning how to manage my time and just being able to be in the professional workplace.”

She plans on attending the Universities of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall and pursuing a career in physical therapy.

“I knew I wanted to do something in health care, but I wasn’t exactly sure,” Steeno said. “Being in this environment, it was really interesting to see how the therapists work so closely with patients. I even got some of that experience myself. That was really important for helping me decide that, yes, I definitely want to do physical therapy.”

(Spectrum News 1/Nathan Phelps)

According to state figures, a record number of youth apprentices are working with almost 6,000 employers around Wisconsin.

Christina Jungwirth is the apprenticeship coordinator at NWTC.

“For the employer, it’s great. As we know, it’s a very tough job market right now to find employees. This is a great way to get employees,” she said. “Not only that, these are kids who are interested in the line of work they’re going into. Their teachers, parents and counselors are all saying this kid is geared toward this, so they’re going into the right line of work. They’re excited to be there and they’re in learning mode.”

NWTC’S program combines academic and technical instruction with mentored on-the-job learning. Career paths range from manufacturing to information technology and business administration.

Apprentices are paid and earn school credit in the program.

“There’s a huge need throughout our area, including the whole country, for day care workers,” Jungwirth said. “Our apprenticeship program for early childhood educators is doing great to get those employees in the field right away working and learning.”

David Gordon of CESA 7 said about 10,000 students in the state are in youth apprenticeship programs.

“Students really get an inside look at an industry before they graduate from high school,” he said. “We’re seeing students confirm their identified pathway and other students try something out and realize maybe it’s not what they thought it was. We see both of those things as a success because students are exiting high school with a better understanding.”

(Spectrum News 1/Nathan Phelps)

Steeno said she was a little nervous entering the program.

“In the beginning it seems a little scary, and I was definitely nervous too, because this was my first more professional job,” she said. “Going into it, I really had no idea what I was getting into and it seemed very scary, but it’s just a job. The people you work with are great people. Your school advisor is always willing to help. Go to them with any questions. If you don’t know if you want to do it yet, just ask questions and figure out what it’s all about.”