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Education and training programs across the country have been interrupted as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). GPSEd’s work-based learning programs- which are designed along a continuum to connect learning with related technical activities and instruction, have also had to adapt delivering hands-on experiences to continue the important work of developing today’s students into tomorrow’s workforce. 

GPSEd’s Wisconsin-based Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Program (YA) serves approximately 175-200 students each school year and supports over 100 school and employer partnerships. 

Traditional Youth Apprenticeship (YA) programs typically take place between the high school classrooms and an employer’s worksite, but students in the GPSEd YA program attend one of our seven Education Centers for a more immersive work-based learning experience. Since the GPSEd curriculum was already delivered through a blended learning approach (lecture and online), moving students to virtual learning was not as challenging as it was for many schools.  

GPSEd’s Class of 2020 ended their year in June on a positive note despite the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.  At the beginning of the pandemic, 100% of our students successfully transitioned to virtual learning and about 50% of them followed guidance on social distancing and continued their work at businesses deemed essential. Many of our students were even trained to help employers who were making PPE and other COVID-19 related equipment!

Our Class of 2020 also set a new marker by being the first GPSEd class to experience a virtual graduation- if you missed that, take a look at our graduation video to see what great things this class accomplished in the middle of a pandemic.

So what is our new class of students up to- we’re glad you asked!
This year’s cohort of students started out with a hybrid blended-learning model. Our returning students will get their academic instruction 30% in-person and 70% virtually. In the next month or two, we also aim to have 100% of those students in work placements as well!

For our new incoming students, they have 80% in-person and 20% virtual learning in our Ed Centers. Our focus will be to help prepare and coach these students for virtual learning in the event more safer-at-home practices are required. GPSEd instructors and work-based learning coordinators are building relationships with new students and leveraging the smaller class sizes to get students ahead of their academic and career exploration activities. This aggressive work will allow our Ed Centers to “flip” to 100% virtual learning if needed. It’s no secret that GPSEd families value having only one instructor to manage their child’s educational needs, versus having to connect with many teachers in a traditional high school setting – and for parents who find it difficult to home school their virtual learners, our instructors have been able to streamline efforts for parent support.  

GPSEd’s Education Center teams have also worked hard on deploying the following changes to ensure every student’s success: 

  • Reorganized our curriculum into micro-units to help students earn their credits and industry-related credentials throughout the semester. 
  • Built-in more robustness to our online learning management system.
  • Ramped up two-way communications with parents to help them support their student’s online learning experience and with employers to ensure alignment with “next norms”.
  • Protecting our future workforce by formalizing and standardizing operating procedures, processes, and tools to help keep students and staff safe.
  • Remember to have fun and give back too! GPSEd packs a lot of learning into a student’s journey but if we keep learning fun, we keep students engaged!

Despite so many encouraging signs from our students, we are still living through a pandemic that continues to take a toll on our business partners. Now more than ever, work-based learning can provide a means for students and businesses to connect and find matches that lead to meaningful learning and long-term career opportunities. 

When businesses view work-based learning as a long-term investment in not just the life of a student, but the impact on their communities, they are determined to weather this current storm knowing that on the other side, they will have a more developed workforce that better prepares them for the future. 

If you know a business that is looking at building their future workforce, please share this article with them or have them visit our GPSEd Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Program page to learn more.


If you know a high school student that loves hands-on technical learning and would thrive in our youth apprenticeship program, share this article with them or their parent or have them visit our Interested Student’s page. 

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