For students across America, figuring out life after high school can be a daunting task. Some want to go to college, some want to go straight to work, and others just want some time to think over all the options before making a commitment.
However, lost in that shuffle of waning decisions are school programs designed to give students a head start for the beginning of their young adult lives. That plan is exactly what the Elma School District is starting this year.
The Elma High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department is kicking off a program for the first time by offering apprenticeships in the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC). Elma will be the first school district in Grays Harbor County to implement the program, which has been in the works for the last eight years.
AJAC was launched in 2008 with an investment from Washington state to skill-up the aerospace and advanced manufacturing workforce through registered apprenticeship. They have approximately 400 apprentices per year at close to 300 companies and, in 2017, began offering registered apprenticeship programs for high school students.
AJAC currently partners with 15 school districts across Washington to help youth apprentices create opportunities ranging from finishing high school, getting paid work experience alongside a mentor, and starting a path that broadens the students’ options for the future.
Mary Roberts, who serves as the Career Connected Coordinator for Elma high school, says this opportunity is a special chance for students to really get ahead of the game for their careers in fields that are looking for new talent.
“This program is a cutting-edge opportunity for five students to pursue their career pathway while attending high school, and upon graduation, they will have earned a 2,000-hour journeyman’s card to apply to different companies.” Roberts said via email.
Although the high school is starting small with only five students this year, the goal is to eventually raise it up to 10 students per year depending on the success of the apprentices. According to the Roberts, the students will work with three sponsoring employers, Vaughan Company, Sierra Pacific, and A&R Aviation, as well as have an opportunity to get paid while doing so.
The students who will be recipients of the apprenticeships, Misael Oliveros Farias, Brandon Orcutt, Logan Zimmerman, Sonny Mougous, and Kaleb Anderson, were picked by their CTE teachers for having high work ethic in the fields of aerospace, construction, and welding. They were also seen as having high reliability skills that could translate to being the best fit for an apprenticeship.
While these students will be able to work and build for their future, they won’t just be able to skip through their education. Christi Kershaw, who is the CTE Director for Elma School District, says that the students still have obligations to education to uphold for them to graduate.
“Although the students would see their apprenticeship go through their junior summer, senior year, and senior summer, they still have to maintain their grades and course completions to graduate on time,” Kershaw explained. “Overall, this program gives a lot of options for the students to complete things while earning college credit and getting paid.”
However, before their apprenticeship can begin, the students must complete signing day. The students will gather for a celebration and work with the sponsoring employers to find out where they would like to complete their apprenticeship.
The Elma School District Signing Day will be on Thursday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m. at Elma High School. The event is free for anyone to attend and will feature multiple keynote speakers to commemorate the program.