Getting an early start: Apprenticeship program grows as employers struggle with worker shortage

Monday, April 16, 2018

Dylan Bush held a small electronics board in his hand in early January and pointed out all its tiny, colorful knobs and wires.

With ease, he explained how the object — called an Arduino — can help tinkerers build devices that interact with the physical world. It’s become a favored tool of his throughout his work as a youth apprentice at Machine Tool Camp in Chippewa Falls.

At 16 years old, Bush is getting a firsthand look at how the manufacturing industry operates. Where other high schoolers might be earning cash in retail or fast food, Bush is learning computer coding and how to make 3D models.

He’s paid for his time, and he receives credits at Chippewa Falls High School, where he is a junior.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Bush said as he sat on a chair over checkered floors at Machine Tool Camp, where he works two to four evenings a week. “It’s a job, for one, and they’re teaching me how to use real-world skills for future jobs.”

Bush is one of 407 students in the Chippewa Valley who participate in the Youth Apprenticeship program. Hosted through Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10, the program connects high school students with area businesses to expose them to working life after graduation.

As Wisconsin faces workforce shortages across multiple industries, Youth Apprenticeship organizers hope the program helps students get a jump-start on a career.

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