Career spotlight on youth apprenticeships

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Tyler Setzke

Laborer, physics student

GPS Education Partners matched Tyler with a job at Menasha Corp. while he was attending Hartford Union High School. Upon graduating, he won the Senior Merit Award in Academics and Youth Apprenticeship.

The job made him curious about the physics of machines, so Tyler will be going on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for a degree in physics.

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“Before I joined, I was metaphorically losing my balance because I had stopped moving forward in life. I didn’t have any plan for my future and I put things, like playing video games, as a priority over my education. However, that all changed when I signed up for the GPS program,” Tyler said.

During class, he had to fabricate bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue, and then test how much weight they could handle. Many of his classmates started building immediately, but he decided to take some time and plan out the whole thing first. He and his partner ended up having the sturdiest bridge.

“That activity taught me that it is beneficial to plan and use your time wisely, and not just make things up as you go,” he said.

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Tyler also learned many technical skills, such as how to set up and operate machines, MIG weld, mix concrete and patch up drywall.

“I also became a better problem solver in general,” he said. “I was allowed to be creative and come up with novel solutions to some problems that weren’t obvious. I also realized that I really enjoy learning not only how to fix things, but fundamentally how and why those mechanisms even work.”

Isaac Schrage


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Isaac Schrage knew early in his high school years that he wanted to pursue a career in CNC/tool and die. Isaac was enrolled in technical education classes at West Bend East High School and quickly became part of Moraine Park Technical College’s dual credit program.

“My high school tech-ed teacher made manufacturing very interesting, and I became very passionate about the field,” Isaac said.

Isaac graduated from high school in January 2017. He enrolled in the CNC/Tool & Die Technologies technical diploma program at Moraine Park with a full semester of credits completed.

Along with being a full-time student, Isaac also worked in the industry part-time at Standard Machine Co. Inc. in Saukville. He graduated in May 2019 with his technical diploma.

“Moraine Park has taught me many skills that I couldn’t learn on the job,” Isaac said. “My dream is to one day own my own small business and to teach people about manufacturing. I’m very excited about my future and what it holds.”


Jenni Jansen

Marketing communications intern

Not all manufacturing jobs are on the shop floor. Jenni Jansen was a marketing major looking to break into the workforce. She found an opportunity to intern at plastic container manufacturer ORBIS Corp., a subsidiary of Menasha Corp.

ORBIS’ marketing communications team is based out of the corporate headquarters in Oconomowoc. The team is responsible for global brand efforts, sub-brand initiatives, trade shows, literature development, social media, content management and digital marketing.

“From the moment I started as an intern, I felt valued and that my opinion mattered. I have also had the opportunity to sit in on meetings and talk regularly with the executive leadership team. This has shaped me to become more confident in the workplace,” Jenni said.

From her past experience in marketing, Jenni expressed interest in social media and content development. She learned about the ORBIS brand and how it connects to its audience.

“From social listening to finding trends in our industry, I was able to help out with our social media accounts. From there I attended social media workshops and helped post on our channels. Now, with the help of my team, I am leading all social media efforts,” she said.

“My advice to other marketing majors trying to find work experience is to network and always be proactive,” Jenni said. “Joining a student organization can open up many networking opportunities. This allows you to participate in professional settings and connect with employers, which ultimately can help you land your next job.”

Diego Torres

Construction wireman


Diego Torres is a senior who lives on Milwaukee’s south side. He attends Messmer High School and participates in a before-school program at Brown Deer High School called Industry Advisory. It offers motivated students the chance to learn how to use tools in the construction trade. They work side-by-side with industry experts from a variety of companies during the semester.

Diego showed an early interest in the electrical trades. Representatives from Lemberg Electric worked with Diego in Industry Advisory this spring, showing him how to install electrical wiring. In April, students interested in electrical work interviewed with a representative from STAFF Electric. Diego was among them. He will be starting as a construction wireman earning more than $14 an hour with full benefits this summer.

Brown Deer and Messmer high schools are both Building2Learn school partners, but Messmer’s B2L initiative is focused more on residential construction and Brown Deer’s is focused on commercial construction. That’s why Diego chose to pursue his training at Brown Deer.

Other B2L schools include: St. Francis School District, Carmen Schools of Science and Technology, Pulaski High School, West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education, UCC Acosta Middle School and Horlick High School in Racine.

Jarrin Ramig

CNC operator


Jarrin was eight years old when his father showed him the inner workings of the manufacturing facility where he worked as a computer numerical control operator.

One look at the facility’s robotics and production lines and Jarrin was hooked. He knew someday he’d work in a similar facility doing similar work.

Jarrin began that career before his 18th birthday. Earning college credits from Gateway Technical College while in high school provided him the skills to land a position at a local plastics company. Jarrin went through a Youth Apprenticeship program with Gateway and his high school. He took classes at his high school in the morning, traveled to Gateway’s SC Johnson iMET Center in the afternoon to take his college courses and then went on to work.

He graduated from Union Grove High School in June 2019, already having earned 12 credits toward a Gateway Advanced Manufacturing Technology degree.

“These classes have been a great stepping stone for me,” Jarrin said. “When I get to college, I’ll have half of a year of my degree already done. Since I didn’t pay for those classes, I’ll be saving money. I’ll end up having to pay only about $6,000 to earn my degree for a career field where I can earn $60,000 to $80,000. That’s a great investment of my time and money.”

Jarrin says his favorite class to take has been robotics.

“I love the idea of working with robots,” he said. “I also feel I now have a real-world skill I can use in a career and will help me to land a job – how many people you know can operate a robot?”

Keith Henderson III

Raw material driver

Henderson III
Henderson III

Drivers are the No. 1 in-demand job in Wisconsin. These key players get materials to the factory and the products to the customer.

Keith Henderson III, age 22, has worked at Cargill Inc. for a year as a driver. Some of his tasks on the job include driving a forklift to transport raw materials in a safe manner; documenting product information from suppliers for traceability; and tracking product usage through electronic systems to manage inventory.

“I enjoy coming to work every day because of the welcoming and supportive environment here,” Keith said. “Everyone works together as a team to accomplish the task at hand without issues. I was encouraged by my supervisor to work in a skilled position a short time after starting here, after he noticed my hard work and my willingness to develop knowledge and skills.”

The great thing about this position for Keith is that it offered opportunities to advance in responsibility. Several members of Cargill’s upper management team did not start with a college degree, and they are now responsible for business strategy execution in multiple departments.

The Cargill Milwaukee complex provides frozen ground beef patties and fresh beef products to grocers, restaurants and food distribution companies.

Cargill (headquartered in Wayzata, Minnesota) has been around since 1865, and is currently the largest privately owned company in the United States.

Adam Multer

Information Technology Youth Apprenticeship


Adam Multer learned about the information technology youth apprenticeship through his Kohler High School business education teacher, Jodi Grossen, who encouraged him to apply. He had been interested in IT ever since elementary school.

“I saw taking part in YA as a way to see if a career in IT was indeed a good fit prior to pursuing a college degree in IT,” he said.

In his first YA year, Adam left school one class period early to go to work at Johnsonville Sausage. He took related technology courses online or in the evenings at Lakeshore Technical College. In his second YA year, Adam works around his class schedule at LTC, as he is taking a full college load.

On any given day, he is involved in networking troubleshooting, wireless support and upgrade projects, as well as Cisco phone and Unified Communications systems support.

“Every day is unique, and I am gaining great experience working as part of a team and working with outside vendors. I really enjoy being able to connect what I am learning on the job with my technical coursework,” Adam said.

Adam encourages other students to consider participating in a youth apprenticeship.

“It is a fantastic way to really experience a career while getting paid and taking related coursework, often for college credit. It is also an excellent opportunity to develop other skills, such as time management, communication and teamwork, that are critical for success in college and the workplace,” he said.


Dave Patel

Certified Nursing Assistant Youth Apprenticeship

Dave Patel is a student at Indian Trail High School and Medical Sciences Academy in Kenosha. He enrolled in this school within a school to take more science classes geared toward medical fields. Dave is a participant in the certified nursing assistant Wisconsin Regional Career Pathway.

Pathways Wisconsin, which administers the program, helps students get the education and credentials they need for careers after high school. It involves education, training and support aimed at helping students achieve their own definition of success. Dave also receives dual credit for college.

At age 15, Dave volunteered at a hospital near his house, where he provided patient transport and brought toys to kids. At 16, Dave became certified as a CNA, which he applied for through a local technical college as a youth apprentice.

In this role, Dave is able to explore the field as a high schooler to see if he wants to get into medicine as a doctor.

“The youth apprenticeship allows me to explore the hospital at a younger age. I learn about patient interaction, diseases and treatment, and how I can help as a CNA,” Dave said.

As a CNA, Dave provides daily patient care. He checks their vitals and their blood sugar, while learning about high blood pressure and diabetes. Dave helps patients clean up, use the bathroom and move around. He makes sure patients get their therapy done, and he gets them comfortable and talks to them.

“It’s one of the most intimate relationships you can have with a patient,” he said. “You get to develop a bedside manner and patient experience. This will help me when I hopefully become a doctor someday.”

Dave plans to study cardiology at Northwestern University.

“It’s tiring work but it makes your heart full because you’re helping others,” he said. “I like talking to others and building relationships, and that’s something that this field really offers.

Tyler Dabbs

Carpentry apprenticeship signing day


Like the national signing day held for athletes, students choosing a career in the skilled building trades also should be celebrated.

Tyler Dabbs, a Tremper High School student, took part in a signing day for his formal full-time apprenticeship with Riley Construction, a contractor. Prior to this, Tyler worked for Riley part-time in a youth apprenticeship program through his school.

The School District of Waukesha hosted its first Apprenticeship Signing Day at Waukesha West High School this year. Student Hunter Heaney participated in various elective classes in the tech-ed area, like autoshop, woodworking and construction, and engineering. The construction classes were his favorite, he said.

As a senior, Hunter was part of the Dual Enrollment Academy at Waukesha County Technical College for the building construction trades program. Hunter signed his registered apprenticeship papers to commit to Tri-North Builders as a carpenter apprentice.


Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program is for high school students who want hands-on learning. By being released from school during part of the day, YA students are using that time to make money, earn school credits and get exposed to real-world work experiences.

The student must be in his or her junior or senior year of high school. Youth apprentices complete 450 hours of work-based learning and two semesters of related classroom instruction.

Classroom learning is part of an agreement between a college and a high school. In this agreement, the student earns both college and high school credits, and does not have to pay college tuition fees.

Schools try to match students with companies that have careers in their fields of interest. Most students are paid between minimum wage and $16 an hour, depending on the company and job.

Students also learn resume writing, interviewing and other job skills. Many students who take advantage of youth apprenticeships are hired as full-time employees after graduation.

Earn money skills with Junior Achievement

Do you want to go to college? Enter a trade? Start your own business? You can learn about the steps to do all these and more through Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, an organization for young people to learn about the world of work. JA of Wisconsin reaches approximately 154,000 students per year.

JA BizTown combines in-class learning with a daylong visit to a simulated town. Elementary school students in grades four to six operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks and vote for mayor. Connect the dots between school lessons and the real world!

JA Finance Park is for youth in grades seven to 12 and deals with personal finance. This event allows students to gain confidence in handling money. They will budget, make investments and buy needed items (clothes, food, housing) for their imagined future family. Money doesn’t have to be a worry if young people are taught the right skills!

Working for school credit (and pay!) with WCTC’s Dual Enrollment Academy


Waukesha County Technical College’s Dual Enrollment Academy relies on local businesses to provide students with access to real-world industry settings. These community partners host tours and provide job-shadowing opportunities, among other activities.

Waukesha-based Wisconsin Metal Parts Inc. was involved with DEA from the start. The company makes CNC machined parts, sheet metal fabrications, metal stamping prototypes and more. WMP currently has two DEA alumni working in its shops: Ella Johnson (Waukesha West High School class of 2017) and Michael Cobb (Brookfield Central High School class of 2016). Ella works as a welder and Michael is working in the metal stamping department.

In 2013-’14, WCTC launched the DEA to give high school seniors a jump start on their career. They earn college credits while exploring high-demand fields such as tool and die, CNC and welding, and fabrication.

DEA students then have the opportunity to continue their studies in a specific program area at WCTC to complete the full technical diploma or associate degree in just one more year (or less) after high school.

“The program allows young people to engage in their careers and interests at an accelerated rate in the real working world. Sometimes it even helps them decide what they don’t want to do and what their real passion is,” said Dan Erschen, owner and president of WMP and member of the WCTC Tool and Die program advisory committee.

What are soft skills?

Building your resume helps, but hiring managers say when it comes to landing a job, you need to have soft skills. Soft skills show you are going to be a good worker.

Some SOFT SKILLS from hiring pros:


You can prove you’ve got the skills in the interview or through personal references.


First, find someone who knows you personally. It should be someone besides family who knows you can get your work done. References are often a colleague or prior employer or manager.

If it’s your first job interview, you might ask a guidance counselor or teacher to be a reference. A sports coach can attest to your commitment to achieving goals.

Make sure to let your references know they will be listed, and ask them how best for the recruiter to contact them BEFORE sharing their phone number or email address.

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