NCRVE Home | Site Search | Product Search

NCRVE Home | Full-Text Documents | Contents | Previous Section | Next Section


Youth Apprenticeship Manufacturing Technology,
Rock Valley College and Tulsa Junior College

Debra Bragg, George Johnston, and David Sargent

Rock Valley College (RVC) was created in 1964 to serve the needs of Boone and Winnebago Counties as well as parts of four other counties in north central Illinois. Over the past 30 years, RVC has grown and changed in many ways. It has evolved from a small community college consisting of 35 faculty members and 1,100 students to 140 full-time faculty, 500 part-time lecturers, and over 9,000 students (see Table A-14). A high proportion of the student population is white (89%), which is similar to the community demographics. Another 5% of the student population is African-American, and the remaining minority population is made up of Asian, Hispanic, and other groups. The average age of students at RVC is 30 years old. About two-thirds of students are enrolled in the transfer curricula and one-third are engaged in the occupational/technical curriculum.

RVC is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and is recognized by the Illinois Community College Board. It serves 15 public high schools within its district, including urban and rural school districts. RVC offers 36 career programs, 17 transfer degree programs, and 7 local joint apprenticeship programs recognized by the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training and the U.S. Department of Labor (BAT/USDOL), including the Tech Prep youth apprenticeship in manufacturing which was the focus of this case study. RVC also offers joint educational agreements through ten cooperating Illinois community colleges for students interested in degree programs not offered there. The primary funding for the college is threefold: (1) tuition (approximately $35 per semester hour credit for in-district students), (2) local property taxes, and (3) state appropriations.

Table A-14
Enrollment and Student Demographics
for Rock Valley College
(Fall Semester 1993)

Note: UK indicates unknown or unavailable information.
Enrollment and Student Demographics, AY '93-'94Incidence
Institution's total head count enrollment9,113
Institution's FTE enrollment4,320
Ethnic composition of students (total population):

African-American
5%
Native-American
<1%
Asian
2%
Hispanic
3%
White
89%
Other
--
Percent of total student population receiving Pell grantsUK
Average age of the institution's entire student population 30

There are approximately 1,000 manufacturing companies within the college's district and many other companies in the nearby counties that collar the suburbs of Chicago. These companies range from small- and medium-sized plants to large multinational corporations. Although most of the local manufacturing firms are small, 80% to 85% of the manufacturers in the Rockford area have fewer than 100 employees. Approximately 33% to 35% of the local workforce is involved in manufacturing.

Program Overview and Goals

Beginning in 1990, through a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education, a Tech Prep consortium was launched in the Rockford area by RVC and the Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI), the regional office of the state's vocational delivery system. During the initial year, partnerships were built with the local manufacturing community, including the development of an executive committee. This group continues to meet monthly to provide direction for the consortium's initial planning and policymaking processes. Many representatives from this initial group remain the strongest supporters and financiers of the current initiative.

In 1992, the Youth Apprenticeship component of the program was added to the school-based Tech Prep Program for manufacturing technologies with the encouragement and support of the local manufacturing firms. During the first year of the Youth Apprenticeship effort, the Tech Prep consortium was supported by 16 local firms as well as representatives from local labor unions. Since that time, several more manufacturing companies have joined in the Tech Prep youth apprenticeship effort and, although not part of this case, a second Youth Apprenticeship Program has been initiated with local health-care providers in the health occupations.

The goal of the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program, according to a brochure from RVC/CEANCI is to "provide the students involved with the skills necessary to obtain journey-person status in a manufacturing career and to obtain an associate degree." In that same document, the mission statement says that "(W)e exist to enhance the competitiveness, employability, and career opportunities for area young adults by fostering a partnership with business, industry, and education. This business and education coalition will lead to an enriched apprenticeship training experience for the participants and greater community-wide acceptance of the value of this career path." Both statements are in keeping with the college mission and goal statement as outlined in the college catalog.

Funding to support the program has been provided by public and private sources. Federal Tech Prep Education Act funds and additional financial support appropriated by the state of Illinois for Tech Prep have co-mingled to support RVC's program. In addition, the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program has received funding from the USDOL as a part of a larger grant received by the state of Illinois (involving two other sites in Illinois in Youth Apprenticeship Programs as well). In addition, over $380,000 has been contributed by sponsoring companies to support students and materials. The donation of facilities by a local manufacturer has been an essential resource to this program. The first two years (secondary level) of the Youth Apprenticeship Program utilizes a Tech Prep Academy, a 3,000-foot training site at Pfauter-Maag Cutting Tools, a German-based company. This academy was renovated and furnished with equipment donated by the area manufacturers involved in the program.

Although the program is very new compared to many work-based learning programs operated by two-year colleges, it has already been recognized for excellence. The Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program received the Building Fairness (gender equity) Award from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Excellence in Work Force Preparation award from the Illinois Community College Board. It has also been featured in the January 4, 1993 issue of Industry Week magazine in an article entitled, "Apprenticeships: A Few Good Crusaders."

Key Stakeholders

Educators

The role of RVC faculty, staff, and administration seems to be twofold: (1) to help "sell" these types of workforce/economic development programs; and (2) to act as a facilitator and leverager of funds. The President of RVC describes the college's role in terms of leadership. He is concerned that work-based learning programs not confuse economic issues with "social engineering" ones. His point was that two-year colleges and their educational partners can provide opportunities, but their resources are not unlimited. The college acts as the fiduciary agent for the program and provides a home-base for the full-time Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program Director employed with the special grant funds. In addition, RVC provides a summer institute for the students prior to their starting the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program. Still others in the college provide support for the program. The Career Dean and Director of the Division of Technology also spend a substantial amount of time on the program, as much as 25% according to the Director of the Technology Division (although his time is not budgeted on this program). In addition to these individuals, the Regional Director of CEANCI and secondary education faculty are involved in the program to varying degrees.

Employers

There seems to be a unique spirit of cooperation among the manufacturing industry representatives who in other arenas might see themselves as competitors. It would appear that an impetus for the program was a recognition by all of the stakeholders that Rockford needed to make a change in how youth were being educated for work. On several occasions, we heard remarks to the effect that companies had to "swallow their pride" and "all parties had to make some sacrifices," alluding to concerns that typically arise when competitors attempt to collaborate. All of the stakeholders stressed the importance of developing a mission statement early in the process and bringing it to every meeting to keep everyone "on track." In addition to the verbal commitment received from local industries, commitments could also be measured financially. Each business partner is required to subsidize the program in the amount of $9,000 per apprenticeship. Recently, when an audit revealed that the program was not going to be as expensive as originally planned, the businesses were given the opportunity for a rebate. They declined on the grounds that excess monies should be put into savings for when state and federal funds "dry up," indicating the enthusiasm employers have to ensuring the program will survive over a longer-term basis.

Industry representatives (senior executives and human resource personnel) play a critical and highly involved role in the Youth Apprenticeship Program. Pfauter-Maag sent the coordinator to one of its German plants to study how such apprenticeships work. The companies continue to meet regularly with the consortium as a formal governing board to address all aspects of the training program. At present, one of the concerns of industry is ensuring that the transition from secondary to postsecondary education is as seamless as possible. During the transition of the first group of secondary students into RVC during the summer of 1994, a few students encountered difficulty with a college-level English course (taught in a traditional manner). To address this problem, the businesses showed enough concern to raise the issue at the senior executive level. Consequently, gentle pressure from the senior executives caused college administrators to rethink the academic curriculum offered at RVC. It should be emphasized that the Chief Executive Officers were committed to maintaining high academic standards for the program, not lowering them. According to the President of RVC, this situation clearly demonstrated industry's commitment to that goal for the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Industry mentors (referred to as meisters at RVC based on German terminology) are not part of the curriculum committee, but are actively involved with the training of the students at the work sites. Meister training consists of one 4-hour session, a time period that local educators readily admit is too limited, but practical at this stage. One participating company's policy dictates that meisters must have been with the company a minimum of five years and have a reputation "on the floor" of being good trainers. On the part of employers, we observed some resistance to taking senior workers (supervisors and lead workers) away from the shop floor for too long to work with youths. One of the meisters had been with a participating company for 25 years, and he was self-taught. His phrase was he "didn't have an education." He saw his role as a guide and was very supportive of his student mentee, encouraging her to continue when she had difficulties. His attitude was one of deep caring and concern, an important quality for any teacher. On the other hand, his limited educational background made it difficult for him to reinforce more advanced academic competencies that he himself did not possess.

Students

As a result of recruitment efforts in the greater Rockford area, 30 applicants applied to the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program. Of the 30 applicants, 15 were selected to make up the first class. The group consisted of 8 males and 7 females. Of these, 11 completed the two-year secondary program (11th and 12th grades) and 10 went on to RVC in a related academic program. Program administrators indicated that they continue to take only as many students as they have sponsors. Since the initial class of 15, the program has grown to enrolling 31 students with an equal number of corporate sponsors in the 1994-1995 academic year. In addition, a second Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program was started in the health occupations area.

All of the students who were interviewed were enthusiastic about their youth apprenticeship experiences. Some described greater motivation for their academic subjects having seen how they relate to the workplace. Several students said mathematics was their favorite academic subject. One student indicated that he had completed math up through calculus, and the assessments completed by students upon entry to RVC confirmed that the students were well-prepared academically in mathematics. Three students had difficulties in an English composition course taken in summer school immediately following high school graduation, and this situation had raised concern from employers and postsecondary educators about the academic preparedness of the students. To assist the students who were having difficulties and in the interests of future students enrolled in the program, steps were taken in a coordinated fashion by the secondary schools, RVC, and employers to improve the English communication aspects of the program.

It would appear that students' parents were supportive of the program. Several students indicated their parents had encouraged them to continue on in their postsecondary studies and in the pursuit of a career in the manufacturing industry. A number of the students interviewed said their parents were employed in manufacturing occupations like the ones they were training to assume. Although it was not possible to determine how widespread this phenomenon might be, it is reasonable to assume it is representative for a sizable proportion of the students in the program since small- to medium-sized manufacturers are the predominant employment base in Rockford.

Program Components

School-Based Learning Component

The Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program in manufacturing starts at the junior level of high school and culminates in two degree options at the postsecondary level at Rock Valley College. These two programs are an AAS degree in Automated Manufacturing Technology and a Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT) approved four-year Adult Apprenticeship Program (AAP) in Tool & Die/Precision Machinist which can lead to an Associate Degree in General Studies (AGS). The fall semester of 1994 was the first year that students had advanced far enough in the program to attend RVC. Of the 15 students who started the program, 11 finished and 10 continued on to RVC immediately after high school. Approximately half are enrolled in the Adult Apprenticeship Program and the other half are in the two-year AAS program.

Prior to the beginning of their junior year in high school, students participate in a nine-week session held at RVC for which they receive credit. During that nine-week session, students are introduced to the field of technology and also visit each of the sponsoring companies. The first year of the program (junior year in high school) is taught at the Tech Prep Academy where students spend two hours a day learning how to use lathes, mills, and drill presses. The Academy is a 3,000 square foot space renovated by and located in Pfauter Maag. Each student receives a basic scholarship of $1,000 with a differential reward paid for making good grades ($1,100 for a "B" and $1,300 for an "A"). Second-year students (senior year of high school) work either at the Academy or at one of the sponsoring companies for four hours a day for which they are paid. Officially, students are not employees of the manufacturing firms; they are hired by a local temporary agency as a way of limiting liabilities to the companies. In addition, this policy eases the burden of hiring students as permanent employees who would require benefits in addition to wages. One additional benefit of this approach is that the employment agency issues appropriate tax forms for the students.

Graduates of the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program may continue to work part-time at a sponsoring company while attending RVC when they matriculate to the postsecondary level of the program, although this aspect of the program is not considered an official part of the program. Of special significance to many of the students, up to 1,500 hours from the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship On-the-Job Training Experience can be applied towards the 8,000 hours of on-the-job training needed to complete the AAP. The AAP also requires 144 hours per year of theory. This program is conducted in conjunction with the Rockford Tool and Machinists Association (RTMA), which is not an organized union. The completion of the AAP may result in a journeyman's card as a machinist.

Recruitment of students into the program at the secondary level has grown in sophistication over the past few years. However, in the early years, the strategies were more targeted. At first, a letter was sent to 187 high school sophomore students all from Harlem High School who were deemed to be qualified based on a criteria that included a 2.0 GPA (grade point average), attendance (fewer than 5 misses per year), and a successful score on an attitude scale. Then, interested students were invited to attend a meeting and a second meeting was arranged.

High schools that are a part of the program are engaged in curriculum integration across vocational and academic education, rather than using applied academics. Integration occurs through the collaborative work of interdisciplinary teams of teachers that actively reinforce related concepts (e.g., geometry in building trades or in computer-aided design). Many of these teachers have participated in "Learn and Earn"--a professional development experience enabling teachers to visit local employer work sites and incorporate their own learning into the school-based learning component of the curriculum. Integration is further reinforced through the use of workplace mentors who have participated in training on the basics of pedagogy at the start of the school year and who continue to attend meetings with the teams of teachers.

The integration model used at the college is one of infusion, which focuses on work skills across the curriculum. RVC employs several activities to help faculty become more familiar with the needs of industry. Vocational instructors can work in industry as part of a program called Vocational Instructor's Practicum funded by the Illinois State Board of Education. Stipends are not large (approximately $5.00 per hour) and the state covers the faculty with a special insurance packet to minimize expenses to the business. Faculty (and counselors) can work up to 200 hours during the summer. Academic faculty also participate in similar activities through the "Learn and Earn" Program, a summer professional development program for secondary and postsecondary personnel funded using Tech Prep grant dollars.

Work-Based Learning Component

During the first year of the high school phase of the program, instruction and performance-based assessment are performed by a certified secondary industrial technology instructor in the Academy setting. Teaching and assessment during the second and ensuing years is done primarily by the workplace meisters. To demonstrate mastery of the occupation, students are required to complete 137 machining competencies in 13 major categories ranging from shop safety to fastener technology, layout and measurements, vertical mills, and metallurgy and heat treatment. Each competency may be checked as either having been mastered, requires supervision, or is not yet mastered.

Students reported they rotated through various aspects of the industry in which they are apprenticing. In some cases, students worked for three weeks in one department and then moved on to another. In other cases it was reported that students had shown a special aptitude and there was a temptation to leave them for an extended period on one particular job. However, students were moved around to encourage them to gain a broader perspective of the occupation. Students are paid a stipend that is based partially on grades earned. Their pay is received at the end of the semester; however, there was some discussion about changing the pay to every two weeks hoping to link wages and work performance more closely.

In and of itself, the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program does not provide a credential of occupational and academic competencies recognized beyond the local labor market. However, students who do not choose to continue at the postsecondary level are seen as valuable potential employees by the local members of the coalition because of their successes in finding full-time training-related employment. Yet, even then, having students complete the postsecondary collegiate credential is strongly encouraged by educators and employers alike. Many employers provide tuition reimbursement for students who become full-time employees and choose to continue their education at RVC.

Connecting Activities

One of the strengths of the program is the regular consultation between workplace mentors or meisters and college faculty. There seems to be a highly developed level of cooperation and coordination on various aspects of the program. There is a formal memorandum of understanding between RVC and Pfauter Maag that clearly identifies the roles of each party. In addition, there are formal agreements between the college and the participating high schools, and there are school Tech Prep liaison agreements. We obtained copies of these agreements and "Letters of Understanding" identifying the responsibilities for the student, sponsor, coordinator, and parent or guardian, and a formal Youth Apprenticeship Agreement with the sponsor. All of these agreements detail the exact responsibilities of each party, providing a template for program implementation and operation into the future.

Initially, there were six sites sponsoring youth apprenticeships. That number has grown to 16 companies. In August 1994, the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Initiative was expanded into the health career area. In this new program, 17 students from four area high schools are being sponsored by five area health-care partners. Students will receive scholarships (paid by the health-care providers) and will receive training in work-based learning at the health-care partner's facility. The current RVC catalog lists four health-care career programs: Nursing, Nursing Aide, Pharmacy Technology, and Respiratory Care. Other allied health-care programs are available through cooperative agreements with other community colleges.

Finally, the college offers a variety of programs to assist students who need special attention, including an individualized learning center that is available in the evenings and on the weekend. Signs on RVC's hallway walls, clearly visible to students, indicated that the career program SIGI+, a commonly used database for information on careers, is available for students. Unfortunately, several of the students we interviewed seemed unaware of these opportunities, although they were still adjusting to the transition from secondary to postsecondary education and might make use of these resources as they become more comfortable at RVC.

Manufacturing Technology Youth Apprenticeships at Tulsa Junior College

Program administrators at RVC attributed many ideas implemented in relation to the Tech Prep Youth Apprenticeship Program in Rockford to a similar program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Learning of the Tulsa program, we decided to conduct a site visit (conducted in two separate visits) to learn about how that particular program was planned and operated. A two-person research team collected data in Tulsa in a similar manner as in Rockford; the same person led the Rockford and Tulsa research teams to ensure continuity in comparing the two programs. Before describing the similarities and differences between the programs, it is important to define the overall population of students attending Tulsa Junior College (TJC) compared to RVC.

Even though the Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Programs have developed some interesting similarities, there are important differences in the communities and colleges that sponsor and house the programs. First and foremost, the two communities differ dramatically in size. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is nearly three times larger than Rockford, Illinois. The population of the metropolitan areas is 368,330 and 134,500, respectively. Like the population of the regions, the two colleges differ in size. The institutional head count for TJC is approximately three times larger than for RVC, the FTE enrollment is nearly five times greater for TJC than RVC (see Tables A-15 and A-16).

The characteristics of the students at TJC and RVC differ as well. A higher proportion of the student population represents minority groups at Tulsa, although the white population there remains high at 84% as it does at Rockford. The percentage of TJC students that is female is 59%. At TJC, the majority of students are enrolled in a technical-occupational curriculum (57%) compared to a transfer curriculum (43%). (RVC reported one-third of students in technical-occupational compared to two-thirds in transfer.) The vast majority of students in both colleges attend part-time and hold part-time or full-time jobs while going to college.

Table A-15
Enrollment and Student Demographics
for the Tulsa Junior College
(Academic Year 1993-1994)

Note: UK indicates unknown or unavailable information.
Enrollment and Student DemographicsIncidence
Institution's total head count enrollment30,481
Institution's FTE enrollment19,422
Ethnic composition of students (total population):

African-American
8%
Native-American
4%
Asian
2%
Hispanic
2%
White
84%
Other
1%
Percent of total student population receiving Pell grants35%
Average age of the institution's entire student population 31

Although there are some important differences between the settings of the two-year colleges, there is at least one important commonality. Both communities rely on manufacturing firms as a substantial part of the local employment base. In fact, many of the Tulsa manufacturers operate in the same markets nationally and internationally as those in Rockford. In addition, in both communities, several of the firms are European-based or operate plants or subsidiaries in Europe where apprentices have a long tradition. European-based or affiliated manufacturing firms in both Rockford and Tulsa are some of the staunchest supporters of the Youth Apprenticeship Programs. Their support comes primarily in the form of financial contributions for apprentice wages, donations of facilities and equipment for hands-on training of apprentices, and workplace mentors for apprentices. Altogether, private contributions by local manufacturers have accumulated to substantial levels in both communities on behalf of the Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Programs.

Program Components

Like the program in Rockford, the Tulsa Youth Apprenticeship Program has received high acclaim. Locally the Tulsa Tribune, Tulsa Business Journal, and Tulsa World have published articles supporting various aspects of the program since its inception in 1991 under the title of "Craftsmanship 2000." Nationally, Forbes and Nation's Business covered the program in May and June of 1992, respectively. In its Want To Earn While You Learn? marketing brochure, Craftsmanship 2000 is described as

the school-to-work transition program for the next century's work force. That's YOU! But it's no ordinary "vo-tech" program. A four-year program, it progressively blends high standard academics with high-tech training to produce the kind of educated and highly-skilled young men and women who are in greater demand than ever before! And believe it or not, you get paid for going! Craftsmanship 2000 students work eight-hour days during school months and throughout the summer at companies that sponsor the program.

Although many features of the Craftsmanship 2000 Program operate as originally planned, some aspects have changed. The following description tells about the original plans for the program and how it has been modified. In addition, the school-based learning, work-based learning, and connecting activities components of the Tulsa Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Program are compared with the program at Rockford.

School-Based Learning Component

Approximately twenty students have been admitted into Craftsmanship 2000 at the beginning of each school year since 1992. During the fall of 1994, the first group of students admitted in the eleventh grade in the fall of 1992 matriculated to TJC. Of the 16 students who continued at TJC, 80% were white; 13% were African-American; and the remainder were Hispanic, Native-American, Asian, or of other race or ethnic origins (see Table A-16). Only two students in this first group were female. Similarly to the Rockford program, the number of females and minority students has increased in Tulsa as recruitment efforts have expanded to encourage their participation. Students recruited into the program were said to "enjoy making things . . . and seeing results."

Table A-16
Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Program
at Tulsa Junior College
(Academic Year 1993-1994)

Note: UK indicates unknown or unavailable information.
Enrollment and Student DemographicsIncidence
Total number of students enrolled in program16
Ethnic composition of students:

African-American
13%
Native-American
<1%
Asian
2%
Hispanic
<1%
White
80%
Other
3%
Percent of total students receiving Pell grantsUK
Average age of students19
Graduation rate for students67%
Job placement rate for students95%
Transfer rate for students (based on student plans)21%

In both Rockford and Tulsa, student recruitment efforts have become more sophisticated over time, although recruitment into the Tulsa program has been problematic. Recruitment for the fall of 1994 involved several strategies: the distribution of materials, videos, and banners; brochures targeted to students, parents, employers, school counselors, and other groups; school visitations; meetings with parent and community groups; and one-on-one home visits with students and parents by local program officials. Still, even with these many approaches, recruitment was challenging. Several people pointed to the wages received by students in the program as the most powerful recruitment tool, but the number of students who have applied has remained small. One TJC administrator described the situation as follows:

Recruiting into this program is a problem. Students don't want to commit to 8 hours a day. They also don't want to have to get up in the wee hours at 6 o'clock in the morning to have to go clear out to the southeast part of the metropolitan area to school. So they [Craftsmanship 2000] are having problems. . . . The most positive recruiting tool is that the students are paid and you look on that as a positive, and I think it is, but I think it can also be a negative because you have some students who say they're interested but who really aren't interested, they're just interested in money.

All students are paid for attending school, similar to employees of a company. A private foundation was organized to handle corporate sponsorships and student wages. Under the original plan, first-year students were to be paid $7,480, with the stipend increasing to $7,920 for the second year. During the third and fourth years, students were to be paid $13,200 and $14,080, respectively. The exact amount of each student's stipend is dependent upon attendance and performance as it is in Rockford's Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Students in the program have benefited from receiving the monetary stipends, but they have been "interested in the education" as well, according to a TJC administrator. There are admission standards such as a 2.0 grade point average in core academic courses including a "C" or better in either Applied Math I or Algebra I, but they do not seem to be overly stringent. Thus far, the vast majority of students who start the program in the eleventh grade remain in it to graduate from their home high school. At the secondary level, students take English, math, science, and social studies classes along with vocational-technical classes at the area vocational center, Tulsa Technology Center. Several applied academics courses developed by the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) are used in Tulsa (in contrast to the Rockford's curriculum where applied academics courses are not used).

The academic classes in Tulsa were described as far more rigorous than what students would have taken if they'd stayed in their home high schools, especially in the academic subjects. The students also participated in apprenticeship-like training in local manufacturing firms, although at the beginning of the program the most intensive training of this sort occurred during the summer months when students were not engaged in extensive formal schooling. As students progressed through the program, they participated in more and more hours of actual on-site work-based learning during the academic year. According to the original plan, by the fourth year of the program students take classes at TJC but spend most of their time working as apprentices for their corporate sponsors.

Teachers and workplace mentors involved in the program were "hand picked," according to a key official of the Craftsmanship 2000 Program. Any instructor or mentor associated with the program should be highly flexible, competent in his or her field, and should care about kids. The local official described the students as "kids who don't have a lot of trust. They [instructors] need to be a friend." Instructors need to be prepared to spend a lot of time and have a lot of energy to be successful. Most importantly, they should "have a missionary zeal and believe they can make a difference" and all of that takes "top-level commitment."

All the students who continued on at TJC were enrolled in a Numerical Control Program that emphasizes Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). (A total of 35 students were enrolled in the Numerical Control Program at TJC in the fall of 1994 but most were not associated with Craftsmanship 2000.) The Craftsmanship 2000 students were expected to compete head-to-head with the other students in the program in taking 15 hours of general education courses, 25 hours of technical and academic courses specifically designated for the program, and another 27 hours of technical courses. When students complete the program, they receive a terminal AAS degree and a certificate of occupational skills.

Initially, Craftsmanship 2000 was planned as a four-year program beginning with the eleventh grade of high school (the junior year), extending through the fourteenth grade, and culminating in the AAS degree at TJC. However, before the first group of students could move through the four-year sequence, the program was changed to only a three-year commitment to address concerns of business and students. One TJC administrator explained,

The program has changed quite a bit lately. . . . We're having a hard time finding corporate sponsorship for this. And, also they're having a hard time finding students who want to commit to a four-year program. I'll tell you this is a pretty tough commitment even for the best because these kids . . . are asked to be . . . there by 8 a.m. and they work 8 to 5 and they're home past 6 o'clock at night. That's a pretty good chunk of responsibility for a young person to commit to. Forget the football, forget all the other activities, this is your life. So, that's kind of tough. And, the expense of a four-year commitment for a corporation is tough so they've cut it back to a three-year [program]. At the end of the three years, they get certification as a Craftsmanship graduate [and] that can be taken to TJC and it's good for 25 credit hours.

Although the stipends to students continue to be paid, referred to as the "earn and learn" aspect of the program (in contrast to Rockford's "Learn and Earn" Program for faculty), students receive the stipend for three years only. They are paid as youth apprentices for all three years taken at the Southeast Campus of the Tulsa Technology Center. Since many students are expected to be employed by their sponsoring companies after graduation and many companies already offer tuition reimbursement for work-related postsecondary education, this modification was not expected to be detrimental to the quality of the program. Rather, it was thought to have the advantage of reducing costs for corporate sponsors and cutting the initial time commitment that had to be made by students and their parents.

Even with the challenges of maintaining the program, a TJC administrator remained optimistic about the future of Craftsmanship 2000. At the same time, he recognized the difficulties in keeping industry and students involved. He stated, "As long as you can get support from industry and you have a population of students that are interested, I think you can make it happen, but those two things are hard to find together."

Work-Based Learning Component

The original sponsoring companies for the program were American Airlines, Inc.; Baker Oil Tools; Hilti, Inc.; Public Service Company of Oklahoma; Webco, Inc.; T. D. Williamson, Inc.; and Yuba Heat Transfer, each providing corporate sponsorships for student stipends and wages. Although the program is relatively young, maintaining these corporate sponsors and recruiting new ones has been a challenge for the Tulsa program. A college administrator pointed out the strong relationship TJC has had with local businesses for some years. He said that prior actions have established a sound foundation for programs such as Craftsmanship 2000, but even with a track record of successful partnerships, many businesses are reluctant to make long-term financial commitments to a program such as Craftsmanship 2000. He explained,

TJC is all about economic development, working with business and industry. I really think one of the reasons this program has done quite well and why we are partners is we have already done quite a bit of work with a lot of the companies involved. For example, American Airlines. When we opened the college, one of the criteria for opening was the fact that we were going to offer courses for American Airlines so they could set up their new reservations system--that was back in 1987. So, American Airlines has been our partner for a long time. . . . Hilti Corporation was very involved. We were offering a lot of computer courses for their employees. So, it [Craftsmanship 2000] fits well with the mission [of TJC].

This TJC administrator continued by saying that Craftsmanship 2000 has support from the college, but that maintaining business and industry commitment to the program at such an extensive level (estimates ranged from $30,000 to $50,000 per apprentice for a four-year time period) could be problematic. He stated,

I don't think [gaining] TJC's commitment is a challenge. I think the real challenge is the companies. As long as the companies are making money and being successful, it's not a problem. But, you let a company start downsizing and having some [economic challenges], then their level of commitment may fall.

A new company was joining the program as a corporate sponsor, but another--a long-standing supporter of TJC and Craftsmanship 2000--was likely to pull out because of economic difficulties. The TJC administrator raised an issue related to sponsorships of the Craftsmanship 2000 Program by large corporations. He said,

It seems like one of the dilemmas is that . . . a lot of growth in the labor market is in pretty small employers, but yet this [Craftsmanship 2000] really requires a commitment from pretty large employers. So, the potential growth in jobs may not match where these big companies are at economically. . . . We've not been successful [recruiting small companies] but we've talked about . . . having several small companies go in and sponsor one student, but we're still working on that.

In order to reduce the total cost of the program to the local firms, the program was reduced to a three-year program delivered by the area vocational center, Tulsa Technology Center. While this modification was expected to be effective in reducing costs, it would also weaken the postsecondary component of the program and TJC's role as a formal partner, a concern for some TJC administrators.

An additional concern expressed with the current program was that it had not been granted approval as a formal apprenticeship program by the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) in contrast to the program in Rockford that had achieved BAT approval. This was a disappointment to several of the Tulsa officials interviewed. A TJC administrator explained that local officials "went clear to Washington, DC" to get the program approved, but that "they [the BAT] didn't want to change even though at the national [level] . . . [apprenticeship] is the big thing."

Connecting Activities

Craftsmanship 2000 operates with an extensive network of subcommittees made up of public-sector and private-industry personnel, with the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce acting as the centerpiece of the program. Several Tulsa officials commented that the program "would not happen" without the active leadership of the Chamber of Commerce which had provided a viable communication channel between industry, TJC, and the Tulsa Tech Center. Particularly between TJC and industry, relationships were thought to be strengthened as a result of Craftsmanship 2000. Apart from this particular program but related to it, contract training had begun with a few of the sponsoring corporations. Both industry and education were thought to have created a more positive image as a result of participating in Craftsmanship 2000.

Numerous subcommittees involving people from local high schools; area vocational centers, especially Tulsa Tech; TJC; the Chamber of Commerce; manufacturing firms; and other community-based organizations were operating to deal with issues related to curriculum, instruction, workplace mentoring, marketing, and evaluation. Of all the subcommittees, the one involving workplace mentors and industry coordinators was particularly active, meeting four hours each week. Initially, the subcommittee contributed to developing standardized grading procedures and ensuring students were gaining experience with appropriate basic technical skills. More recently, an important task of the subcommittee has been to align worksite projects with the in-school curriculum. The weekly meetings are attended by one-half or slightly more of the workplace mentors and these individuals describe the work of the committee as valuable to their ability to contribute as mentors to helping students/apprentices learn in the workplace.

In terms of the entire network of subcommittees to support Craftsmanship 2000, a TJC administrator described the in-kind contribution of time by personnel from the various participating organizations as "enormous" so far, but the commitment must not stop. It appears to be neverending because each time something significant changes, the subcommittees have to make accommodations and implement new plans. Some people expressed frustration with the complex subcommittee structure for Craftsmanship 2000, saying "too many people" and "too many subcommittees" are involved. Others were not concerned. They believed they were contributing to a communitywide effort to create a new educational program for the young people of Tulsa. These individuals recognized the inefficiencies in the system, but valued the opportunity to contribute to a participatory approach.

Lessons Learned

One of the strengths of both Manufacturing Youth Apprenticeship Programs is the high level of commitment and involvement on the part of industry. In both communities, the apprenticeship programs can be described as truly "industry driven." In both Rockford and Tulsa, a few leading manufacturing firms provided the impetus, motivation, and support to establish the programs. In Rockford, in addition to the $9,400 that each firm pays to sponsor a youth apprentice, the companies have contributed nearly $400,000 in goods and services, including more than $100,000 worth of equipment for the Academy facility. In Tulsa, an estimated $30,000 has been donated per apprentice and in-kind contributions of personnel and time have been extensive. In relation to both programs, this level of support from industry deserves special attention.

Related to corporate involvement is an area of concern that requires further discussion. The issue relates to sustaining corporate support for Youth Apprenticeship Programs over the long term, especially where a few large corporations provide the main financial support. Several companies in Tulsa that supported the initial development of the program have already pressured Craftsmanship 2000 officials to reduce the time span of the program, resulting in the elimination of the formal part of the program at TJC. Part of the rationale to reduce the program was to lessen the time demands on students; however, the need to meet corporate demands to reduce costs was acknowledged openly. In Rockford, such financial concerns were not apparent, possibly because the cost of the program was already much lower. (Only two years of schooling were supported by the companies and the annual stipends paid to students were lower in Rockford than in Tulsa.) Regardless, both programs are still quite new, but it is difficult to predict their long-term stability when students' education is so dependent upon private sources. If the Youth Apprenticeship Programs are to be maintained, arrangements need to be made to secure a stable funding situation from both public and private sources over the long term.

Mentioned previously, students engaged in the Youth Apprenticeship Programs make an unusual commitment of time to the program. Many Youth Apprenticeship Programs operate eight-hour work/school days, and many young people are not prepared to make such a big commitment. We heard complaints about the time demands placed on students in both Rockford and Tulsa. One of the accommodations made for students in Rockford was to allow them to continue to participate in extracurricular activities at their home high schools. Students who were involved in sports in high school could make up time missed from the work sites by working holidays and other periods when high school was not in session. Even if they were unable to make up all of the hours, they were not eliminated from the program; however, they were not allowed to transfer as many of the on-the-job hours as they otherwise might have to RVC. The accommodation made in Tulsa was more dramatic--to eliminate corporate sponsorship for the final year of the program, effectively cutting the program to a three-year initial commitment. Either way, local officials need to be aware that placing extensive demands on students above and beyond what is commonly associated with traditional schooling may not be met with enthusiasm by students or their parents. Schools, employers, students, and parents need to work together to develop program requirements that are rigorous enough to produce acceptable results, but not so burdensome as to stifle enthusiasm for the program.

Another related concern has to do with the high cost of the program, particularly when measured against the small number of student participants. In Rockford, at least $300,000 of state and federal funds have been used, along with nearly $400,000 of gifts, private grants, and in-kind contributions from industry. This is a tremendous investment for eleven first-year high school graduates (of the initial group of 15) of whom ten have matriculated to RVC. In Tulsa, state and federal grants have also contributed to the program in addition to the approximately $30,000 in corporate sponsorship for each apprentice. There, sixteen students in the first cohort group matriculated to TJC. Granted, only one class has moved from high school to college in either Rockford or Tulsa; however, the numbers are quite small in both cases, raising concerns about the feasibility of this approach as a work-based learning model for the masses of students. At this point, we suspect the long-term viability of Youth Apprenticeship Programs remains in question for the reasons discussed previously, so basing new programs on this model may be ill-advised. Where the particular program is small, highly focused, and has a well-established relationship between industry and education, the Youth Apprenticeship Model may be successful. However, where large numbers of students need to be involved in a variety of work-based learning situations, youth apprenticeships do not seem as feasible as other models such as co-op.

Even though students expressed concerns about the time commitment required of the programs, most spoke highly of what they had gained. They were especially enthusiastic about the work experience they had received and wages they had acquired. There was a clear sense of self-confidence and pride in their accomplishments and this pride extended to the business partners and workplace mentors as well. However, it would appear that not all members of the faculty and staff at RVC or TJC understand or agree with the academic preparation of the students. There is an assumption in both programs that students would be ready for entry-level college work once they graduated from high school, yet not all students were indeed ready for college. In both programs, the secondary curriculum was perceived to be rigorous and students were thought to be advancing academically, but that assumption may not hold when one looks at students' performances at entry into college.

In Rockford, three matriculating students had difficulties passing an entry-level summer school English composition class. In Tulsa, none of the incoming students achieved the minimum score of 19 on the ACT exam to enroll in TJC without remediation. Later, when students took TJC's equivalency exam, all were accepted with the exception of one or two. "But, it was a disappointment that no students had even a 19 on the ACT, the bare minimum," said a TJC administrator. These findings raise concerns about the adequacy of the preparation of secondary students for the postsecondary level, even when industry is highly involved in determining curriculum requirements. One college administrator described the high school students as "pampered" and having been "brought along," a fairly common sentiment among some college faculty. If students are nurtured along to complete high school and readied for work but not for college, their academic futures could be stifled or even dead-ended, an outcome detrimental to the long-term viability of the program. As youth apprenticeships proceed, it is important that they prepare students to be successful throughout their entire educational experiences, secondary and postsecondary, even if college is not a student's immediate choice.

Finally, in both Rockford and Tulsa, the relationships between the secondary and postsecondary levels were not particularly well-developed. For example, articulation agreements were being employed, but they were not a prominent feature of either program. Also, corporate sponsorships were directed toward the secondary portion of the program but not the postsecondary. Additionally, a majority of students were matriculating, but their college programs were not well-understood by them or their parents, and some were not ready for entry-level college studies. To complicate matters more, the small numbers of students/youth apprentices in the programs inspired little enthusiasm among some college administrators and instilled negative attitudes in others who perceived the programs as being "special," for students who were not college material. To add to the mix, neither the program in Rockford or Tulsa had established a formal transfer component. In both cases, students could pursue a transfer with four-year colleges or universities, but there was no formal agreement to transfer students' credits without a case-by-case review. Taken together, these findings raise concerns about the strength of the secondary and postsecondary relationships underlying the Youth Apprenticeship Programs. Without a clearer definition of the entire curriculum and how educators, employers, and students contribute and benefit, the potential for Youth Apprenticeship Programs to provide upward mobility into higher education and beyond may be jeopardized.


NCRVE Home | Full-Text Documents | Contents | Previous Section | Next Section
NCRVE Home | Site Search | Product Search