Youth Apprenticeship Program Succeeding in Albert Lea

Posted at: 09/17/2013 5:38 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a program that could be training America's next workforce.

And it starts when those future employees are still in high school.

"You don't just come in here and watch someone. You get in there and do the dirty work," said Albert Lea High School senior Blair Bonnerup.

It’s called the Minnesota Youth Apprenticeship program.

"The program is designed to take what young people learn in high school and apply it into a real-world situation," said Valerie Kvale of Workforce Development.

It's a collaboration between schools and industry.

"So the student spends part of the day in the business and part of the day finishing their course work at school," said Johanna Thomas, assistant principal at Albert Lea High School.

Lou-Rich began its partnership with Albert Lea area schools and Workforce Development last October.

"They follow curriculum check-lists if you will for manufacturing environments. The curriculum has been approved by industry standards," Workforce Development’s Valerie Kvale explained.

“And the mentors at Lou-Rich look at the check list with that curriculum and match that up so that the student meets all of those requirements," ALHS assistant principal Johanna Thomas added.

"We struggle every day trying to find machinists and welders and skilled manufacturing positions," said Lou-Rich’s Mike Larson.

Lou-Rich hosted three apprentices during the last school year. Two of them now work at Lou-Rich part-time while attending college.

“I have to go through assembly, welding, machining, paint room. I have multiple steps to go through," said high school senior Blair Bonnerup.

“They get an opportunity, too, to travel around throughout our business, throughout the different departments to learn different processes within our company," said Lou-Rich’s Mike Larson.

“Not only do you know how to run one machine, you can run that machine and four other ones," said former apprentice Allen Johnson.

“We also went through every process a normal employee would go through ... drug tests, interviews," said apprenticeship Blair Bonnerup.

"Right now I'm working with an engineer on a S5 project. It's just to clean up and organize work areas," former apprentice and now part-time Lou-Rich employee Bradford Milliron.

“We're interested in these students going on and getting either a technical degree or going on to four years," said Lou-Rich’s Mike Larson. “and maybe someday they'll come back and we'll offer them a job."

The Youth Apprentice program was being high-lighted during a Chamber of Commerce "Business After Hours" in Albert Lea on Tuesday evening.