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.
Edutopia Team
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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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