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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A Statewide Approach: Helping Kids Stay in School

This Wisconsin program helps lower the high-school dropout rate while giving kids hope for their future.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

Troubled by the recent death of his father and bored with high school, Mark Nordby seriously considered dropping out at the end of his sophomore year. Instead, he took a chance and enrolled in the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Program. "I always learned better by doing and with this program, I got to put into practice what I studied in school that same day," he says.

Three years later, Mark not only had his high school diploma, he also had earned a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency from the State Labor Department and was in his second year of technical college.

As a lead worker at Serigraph Printing in West Bend, Wisconsin, where he has been a paid employee since his junior year in high school, Mark routinely trains other workers. The former self-described "marginal student" now refers to himself as a "fast learner" and has become "a model representative for the company and the Youth Apprenticeship," according to Joe Klahn, an executive at Serigraph.

Under Wisconsin's School-to-Work Initiative, all of the state's school districts will be able to offer students opportunities similar to Mark's by the year 2000. Some 750 students have enrolled in state-sponsored youth-apprenticeship programs since 1992. While the specifics of local programs vary, certain basic elements do not. Applicants are required to be on track to graduate and willing to commit to a two-year program. During their apprenticeship, students must take a class relevant to their work experience. And by the end, they are expected to master essential entry-level workplace competencies identified by industry leaders.

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