KDE to showcase TRACK apprenticeship program to employers

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Jeff Fletcher, right, a quality technician at Leggett & Platt’s Winchester manufacturing facility, shows Clark County Area Technology Center students Brett Foley and Garrett Samuels what to look for while doing a quality inspection. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 25, 2016
Jeff Fletcher, right, a quality technician at Leggett & Platt’s Winchester manufacturing facility, shows two Clark County Area Technology Center students what to look for while doing a quality inspection. Kentucky students can work toward apprenticeships that provide a workforce pipeline for employers through the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) program, which will be showcased to employers at an Oct. 8 summit in Louisville.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 25, 2016
  • About 100 Kentucky employers and 300 students have participated in TRACK, which is designed to create a pipeline for students to enter postsecondary apprenticeship training while gaining credit for courses taken and on-the-job hours worked in high school.
  • Employers who attend the summit will learn about developing a workforce pipeline through the career and technical education network.

By Mike Marsee
mike.marsee@education.ky.gov

A program that uses career pathways to point secondary students toward apprenticeships is ready for its grand debut.

The Kentucky Department of Education hopes to attract employers to the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) youth apprenticeship program, which will be showcased at an Oct. 8 summit in Louisville. Employers will be able to learn more about developing a workforce pipeline through the career and technical education (CTE) network.

TRACK is a business- and industry-driven approach designed to create a pipeline for students to enter postsecondary apprenticeship training while gaining credit for courses taken and on-the-job hours worked in high school. Employers are able to tailor the program for their specific needs and select the CTE courses and students for their apprenticeship program. The program offers high school students seamless career pathway opportunities into Registered Apprenticeship.

“We’re a little over six years into the model, and it’s been proven successful, so we’re ready to scale it,” said Mary Taylor, who coordinates the program for KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education and Student Transition. “We’ve been building it and making this model successful, and now we’re ready to debut it and to scale it in any program area where an employer would want to invest. It’s kind of our coming-out party.”

About 300 high school students and about 100 Kentucky employers have participated in the TRACK program since its inception.

“We have employers that have bought in and liked the model, and it’s a sustainable, ready-made pipeline that they can come back to year after year,” Taylor said. “Once they have bought in, they keep coming back.”

Taylor said employers will be surprised to learn how many students are available in career pathways. In the 2017-2018 school year, there were 65,432 students who were concentrating in career pathways and thus eligible for a paid, work-based learning experience in cooperative education, but only 4,084 of them were working.

“That number demonstrates that we are the untapped pipeline,” she said. “We have tools in place to help employers think differently about working with this age group and some of those perceived barriers. This day should be for an employer to understand the pipeline, the tools and how they can get these students to work.”

This is the first such summit to spotlight TRACK, a partnership with KDE and the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Office of Apprenticeship. It is made possible through funds from the $2 million New Skills for Youth grant awarded in January 2017 by JPMorgan Chase to strengthen and expand career and technical pathways for students.

“This is the final year of funding from that grant, so this is a culminating event,” Taylor said.

The summit is designed specifically for employers and employer associations. It will focus on how to connect with high school students concentrating in career pathways in these sectors:

  • Agriculture
  • Automotive
  • Business and marketing
  • Culinary arts/hospitality
  • Early childhood education
  • Healthcare
  • Information technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Skilled trades

Topics will include an overview of the CTE system and how employers can connect to it at local and regional levels, a look at Registered Apprenticeship and Youth Registered Apprenticeship, an examination of the return on investment for employers and the use of Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money for Registered Apprenticeship. Taylor said areas that often are perceived barriers for employers also will be examined, including child labor laws, transportation options for getting students to program sites and a workers’ compensation coverage option.

Taylor said KDE also will debut an online connector tool for employers that will allow them to more easily connect with CTE programs.

“For example, if an electrician in Lexington wants to know what surrounding schools have electrical programs, they’ll be able to find that,” she said.

Scott Stump, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, will speak at the summit. Stump has visited TRACK program sites twice in the past four years, and Taylor said he chose TRACK as the top youth apprenticeship model in the nation because it is so scalable. 

Participating employers also will speak in the general sessions and in breakout sessions that will focus on individual program areas.

“The employers that are utilizing this will talk about how pleased they are with the skills that these students bring and how they are enhancing their workforce,” Taylor said. “We’re proud of our students, and we’re proud of the knowledge that they’re gaining from industry professionals. The charge is to show employers how this is going to benefit them.”

The summit, which will be at the Louisville Marriott East, is free to employers and employer associations. Visit Learningstream.com to register.

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