In today’s ever-changing world, there’s a growing demand for innovative solutions to address workforce shortages, particularly in fields like healthcare and teaching. Many states and school districts have introduced “Grow Your Own” programs, which are essentially paid high school apprenticeships aimed at fast-tracking individuals who don’t possess the required degrees into critical-need job roles. While these initiatives are a response to current challenges, the concept itself is not new. It’s important to recognize that Grow Your Own programs are a form of work-based learning, an educational approach that GPS Education Partners has been championing for over 22 years, primarily in the manufacturing industry.
As our student enrollment continues to expand, so do the opportunities for our youth apprentices. They are now venturing into diverse fields, including automotive, construction, and landscape industries. What does this tell us? It underscores the universal applicability of the immersive work-based learning experience that transcends industry boundaries.
In addition to paid high school apprenticeships, work-based learning encompasses a wide range of educational experiences that revolve around learning from work or work-like activities. When I reflect on my own career trajectory, I acknowledge the significance of my 4-year BA degree in qualifying me for many of the positions I’ve pursued. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that it was my two pivotal work-based learning experiences as a young person that had a profound impact on my career. An unpaid internship during my senior year of college and my enlistment in the United States Army Reserve, both forms of high school apprenticeships, played a pivotal role in developing my skills and preparing me for success in my career. These experiences enabled me to test-drive different career options and discover passions and interests that I wasn’t aware of during my high school years.
High school apprenticeships and work-based learning do not deter individuals from pursuing college or degrees. It’s not a “now or never” scenario after high school, yet many young people feel compelled to follow this linear path, even if they are uncertain about their career direction. The beauty of work-based learning is that it nurtures a culture of lifelong learning and innovation, which is vital for economic growth and social progress. This approach allows students to explore, experiment, and adapt, fostering the development of essential skills and providing them with the tools to navigate a dynamic workforce.
In addition to career exploration, high school apprenticeships introduce students to a broad spectrum of professionals and mentors. These interactions offer valuable guidance, feedback, and inspiration, contributing to the growth of their social capital. It’s essential for young people to see the relevance of their education and how it can be applied in meaningful ways.
The impact of high school apprenticeships goes beyond individual students; it extends to companies, communities, and society at large. Organizations that develop and offer high school apprenticeships are not only fostering career exploration but also strengthening community partnerships and driving social change. Education isn’t confined to the walls of a school building, and not all students thrive in a traditional classroom setting. High school apprenticeships are particularly appealing to hands-on learners who often excel when provided with practical, real-world experiences.
Work-based learning is more than a classroom activity; it’s a vital educational experience for young people as they develop essential skills for success in the 21st century. To discover how GPS Education Partners is making a difference in the realm of work-based learning and high school apprenticeships, please visit our website at gpsed.org/what-is-wbl/ and stay connected with us on Facebook.
High school apprenticeships and work-based learning are transforming education and preparing young people for a brighter future. Join us in this mission, and together, we can build a better tomorrow through the power of experiential learning and career exploration.