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Student Signings = A Stronger Iowa

WorkSMART Apprenticeships

April 28, 2021

Let’s hear it for a National Signing Day for Apprenticeships!

National Signing Day is commonly known as a culmination of the recruiting journey for athletes, celebrating their commitments to college level programs. Sounds a lot like an apprentice’s pathway into the workforce!

Signing days for high school students entering the workforce are actually gaining momentum in a variety of organizations. With a nearly a 20% gap between the most in-demand skill jobs and the workers who can fill them, employer competition to reach those candidates is fierce. Compounded by employer feedback that 56% of applicants lack the qualifications needed to fill rapidly changing workforce needs, challenging workforce circumstances prove it’s time for a paradigm shift.*WorkSMART Connector Logo

WorkSMART Connector Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships and signing celebrations play into that shift very effectively. Students such as those who are committing to WorkSMART Connector apprenticeship programs already have and continue to put a lot of hard work and prep time toward their end goal. When they arrive at signing day, it’s neither a beginning nor completion of their learning plan. It’s the culmination of their recruiting journey, celebrating their commitments to a college-level program. Sound familiar?

There’s too often an assumption that apprenticeships are for the students who focus on “experiential learning.” While that is true for some, apprenticeships are also for students who do very well in the traditional classroom setting and want to learn a skill. Some are wisely building a resume toward that “dream job” with their apprentice employer. For others, an apprenticeship provides access to an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree, made more feasible due to apprenticeship wages or eventual education assistance from their employers.

Apprenticeships such as those offered by WorkSMART Connector and the Career Academy of Pella are not a one-size-fits-all program, but instead, a customized pathway that allows a variety of student learners to pursue development pathways that best suit them and their situation. Career pathways that best suit Iowans will also best serve Iowa and the employers who need a workforce to grow their businesses and the communities they support.

Preparing for a Lifetime of Learning

Regardless of one’s motivation for pursuing any career, there’s something that applies to everyone: today’s job applicants must be prepared for a lifetime of learning. And apprenticeships provide just that — from learning in high school classrooms, to learning on the job, to learning from a mentor, to learning how to develop oneself to meet education and career goals. Watching students sign up for all that through an apprenticeship is well worth celebrating.

It was a privilege to see dozens of parents, peers, employers, educators and community members celebrate 15 students from three different high schools going to nine different employers in four different fields, at a recent signing day event in Pella. While these students are nearing the end of their high school careers, this “signing” doesn’t mark the end of their formal learning goals. Nor is it a completely unfamiliar beginning, as these are students who have demonstrated unique skill sets and a willingness to try new things for years already. It’s a culmination and commitment to lifelong learning that can shift the 44% of qualified workforce to preparing a majority of workers for the job.

So, to the benefit of our State, let’s hear it for students who boldly pursue apprenticeships. Let’s hear it for employers who develop them and for the educators and parents who encourage their unique learning pathways. Let’s hear it for Aidan, Seth, Henry, Trenton, Vincent, Joshua, Carver, Carter, Katelyn, Marie, Thomas, Andrew, Connor, Joseph and Lucas for recently coming to the table in Pella, Iowa, and signing a commitment toward an even brighter future.

Let’s hear it for a National Signing Day for Apprentices!

*Sources: 2018 Workforce Needs Survey, 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics, Iowa Workforce Development and 2018 Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Teri Vos

Teri Vos is director of work-based learning for WorkSMART Connector, a collaboration of employers, educators and communities in Marion County that connects area talent to local careers in partnership with the Career Academy of Pella and Central College. Vos serves on Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council and others.