September 5, 1996
School to Work works for Wisconsin
By Richard C. Wegner, Acting Secretary
Labor Day does double duty in America. This late-summer celebration is an ode to the
working man and woman. It also signals the start of another school year.
More and more, Labor Day in Wisconsin means school AND work - and Wisconsin's
pioneering School to Work program combines the best of both.
This school year, 950 young apprentices are combining high school studies with on-the-job
training under the mentorship of over 800 employers in 257 school districts throughout
Wisconsin. Pretty good for a program that started from scratch only four years ago. In the
class room, hands-on technology is combined with both academic and technical courses to
help students make the connection between school and the real world.
Class work, paychecks, and bright futures - what a deal!
"Hands-on experience is an excellent way to learn," said Megan Marie Christensen of
DePere of her financial services apprenticeship. " The instructor did an excellent job of
combining every day business experiences with book study."
"The learning system is working here because workplace learning dramatically reinforces
school-place learning and vice versa," says West Bend printing company president John
Tambra Marquardt's youth apprenticeship in West Bend "was the one thing that kept me
in high school. It brought up my grades from a D average to a B average. The program
motivated me to keep focused on school and a good job. I loved working at the credit
union. After school, I still had time to do homework."
Just as important to most young people is what it can do for personal development. "The
program boosts your self-esteem, level of responsibility, and communication skills," says
Karen Laska who, while attending Milwaukee Tech High School, apprenticed at Pip
In addition to a high school diploma, two-year youth apprenticeships result in skill
certificates that are recognized industrywide. Not in origami or horseshoeing but in such
growth careers as health services, biotechnology, drafting and design, insurance, finance,
printing/graphic arts, manufacturing, auto collision, auto technology, hotel/motel, and
"As a result of programs that connect learning and work, Wisconsin students are
motivated, their grades are up, they have access to good career information and they have
marketable skills," says Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. "Many high school students are
receiving credit toward a technical college degree with a pathway established toward a
Given the opportunity to work at such leading financial institutions as BankOne, Norwest,
Firstar, and M&I Bank, Shannon Kelly of Green Bay says her apprenticeship "gives
students the opportunity to see what the real world is like. I know what to expect from
customers and how to react to them."
Not to mention, a leg up on a good job. Who can blame Hope J. Smock of Kaukauna? "The
credit union I was employed at offered me a full-time position and I took it."
Youth apprenticeships are a smart strategy for individual employers. "With the shortage of
labor, it is more important than ever for companies to provide job training," says Jill
Kammerer of Panoramic, Inc., Janesville.
"Finding qualified people today is difficult," agrees Darlene Hausmann of Grafton State
Bank. "The apprenticeship program is one route to provide your own qualified people."
"We are developing managers who are growing through the mentoring process," says Sue
Witt of Bank One, Stevens Point.
"I strongly believe that this is the way to build the state's manufacturing base for the
future," declares David G. Ladd of Mid-States Aluminum Corp. of Fond du Lac.
Wisconsin's School-to-Work program works for everyone.
Jeanine Luz mentors young apprentices at First Federal Savings Bank in La Crosse. "Not
only have we gained extraordinary job candidates from the Youth Apprenticeship Program,
but employees and managers have learned from the students."
Her program is being recognized at the Tech Prep Network Conference in San Antonio this
September as the top program in the nation for its use of distance learning. Students from
12 communities are electronically linked to banking and finance classes taught at Western
Wisconsin Technical College. (Edgerton's health services program won third place in the
The partnership between Milwaukee's Firstar Bank and Milwaukee Hamilton High School
was also recognized nationally by the National Center for Research in Vocational
Education in Long Beach, California this August. Chris Bauer, Chairman and CEO of
Firstar Milwaukee summed up: "The school-to-career transition partnership gives Firstar
the opportunity to train young adults for its workforce...and students receive exposure to
the business world....it's a mutually beneficial program for Firstar and Hamilton High."
Wisconsin's School to Work program helped Wisconsin win "State of the Year" honors
from the National Alliance of Business for outstanding and innovative leadership in
workforce development last October 16 in Washington.
"With the implementation of a truly comprehensive education, training and employment
system, Wisconsin has emerged as a national leader in building a quality workforce for
America's future," said NAB president William H. Kolberg.
"Of course school-to-work benefits the students and companies that get involved, but
society is the biggest winner," writes Rick Schaber, business editor of the Stevens Point
"When businesses and schools form School-to-Work partnerships, the entire community
benefits," agrees Robert Jasna, Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools.
Says student Angela Haas of New Berlin, "It is a great opportunity to learn, mature, and
grow. There is no other experience like it."
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development works with the Department of
Public Instruction, The Wisconsin Technical College System, and the University of
Wisconsin System to coordinate the state's School-to-Work system. For more information,
write Vicki Poole, Division of Connecting Education and Work, Room 231X, P.O. Box
7946, Madison, WI 53707-7946. Telephone 608/266-0223 or E-mail: