It wasn’t a college signing, but the 25 students in Battle Ground Public Schools (and one from the Hockinson School District) who signed off on their futures at the district’s Lewisville Campus May 21 are still headed for success as they jump into trade careers after graduation.
The district hosted an “Apprenticeship Signing Day” to pay recognition to more than two dozen students who will be moving into a variety of different skilled trades after receiving their high school diploma. Employers, many of them local if not based in Battle Ground itself, alongside officials from the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) and the Construction Industry Training Council (CITC) welcomed students into the next step of their career journey.
The May 21 event was the first time BGPS had hosted such a signing. BGPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Cindy Arnold explained the idea evolved over about a year as a way to give kudos to those not going to college but still continuing education.
“We have quite a few students that we know from our high schools that do go into apprenticeships and they don’t seem to be acknowledged in other ways,” Arnold said. While there were announcements about college scholarships and those going into the military, those going into trade fields might not get the recognition for their pursuit of solid careers.
“I think it’s as important as any other student that’s getting a scholarship to go to college,” Arnold said. “These kids need to be recognized as well.”
CITC Southwest Washington Apprenticeship and Facility Manager Tom Elliott said the length of apprenticeships depended on the trade but most were four years, with students going to school through a group like CITC a day or two a week while still working full-time with a business in their trade. Elliott said that working while learning helps to reinforce what they are taught immediately.
As for publicly-funded projects, 15% of workers on a job site have to be registered apprentices. Elliott said this was a way to ensure there would always be an influx of new blood into the industry as others age out and retire.
“The best part of the whole thing is they don’t have any student loan debt when they’re done,” Elliott remarked.
Elliott got particular enjoyment on watching the progression of apprentices, going from fresh out of high school to becoming adults.
“I watch their lives literally just evolve, going from just a kid to, now they’re a kid with a new truck; now they’re a kid with a family or just starting a family,” Elliott said.
“The landscape is changing for careers,” Arnold said. “Students, when they graduate from high school, really need to know what they want to do … you don’t go to college and then figure out what you want to do because that’s an expensive career plan.”
Many of the students going into apprenticeships got their start in the district’s work-based learning program, getting introduced to the businesses they would likely be working for after graduation. Derrik Massie was one student in that situation, having worked for Battle Ground-based Progress Electric for close to two years as part of the district’s work-based learning program.
Massie felt going into the apprenticeship was the logical step after working for Pete Simon, owner of Progress Electric and 2004 Battle Ground High School graduate for two years.
“This is kind of like a guarantee that you are going to get a job,” Massie said. “You’re going to learn the trade a lot better than most people who don’t take the apprenticeship. You can see a difference.”
In some cases, those going into apprenticeships were carrying on their family’s legacy.
Jared Stewart is going into an apprenticeship while working a job for his father, Neal, owner of Advanced Electric, a Vancouver-based company.
“I think it helps the students comprehend more of what they have,” Neal Stewart said about the ceremony. “They’re actually further along in their career paths.”
“It feels good. I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” Jared Stewart remarked.