Thursday was draft day for 11 Milwaukee-area high school students who are now on their way to the big leagues of construction.
Although the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the students’ final semester of high school, it didn’t stop them from taking part in a formal celebration Thursday of their accomplishments in a pre-apprenticeship program run by Brown Deer High School.
A so-called virtual signing ceremony drew 70 people to a video call to watch the students accept offers to work at seven Milwaukee-area contractors. Ten of the participants came from Brown Deer High School and one from Racine’s William Horlick High School. Each will now begin an apprenticeship in the trades this summer.
All that was missing was the marching band.
“I would love to have the marching band with us, but they would not fit in my little house,” said Craig Griffie, a technical education teacher at Brown Deer High School who oversees its construction training program.
Students in the program typically meet before school starts to begin learn about what acquirements they need for careers in the trades. The course, which counts as a certified Department of Workforce Development pre-apprenticeship program, has benefited from support from contractors, unions and other groups, many of which have lent resources and expertise.
Deb Kerr, outgoing superintendent of the Brown Deer School District, said the program provides an example of how teachers, school officials and industry partners can continue teaching despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“A silver lining that’s come out of this COVID-10 situation is that we’ve been able to make things happen,” she said. “Education has not stopped. We’re still learning and we’re still teaching.”
The sponsors of the program include the Northcentral States Regional Council of Carpenters, the Building2Learn Consortium, BSI and CG Schmidt. Milwaukee Tool provided a starter hand-tool set to every student participant.
Almost immediately on completing the program, students began fielding offers from contractors who are interested in bringing them on while they undergo apprenticeship training. Donovan Gordon, a senior at Brown Deer High School, said the program presented him with a path to a career that didn’t require going to a four-year college. Gordon will work for Menomonee Falls-based Hurt Electric with his classmate Tyler Dieterich-Korth.
“It’s really nice to know that I’m building something, and once it’s done, I can reflect and look back,” Gordon said.
Henry Hurt, Hurt Electric president, tuned into the signing ceremony to congratulate the students.
“We look forward to you working with us as construction wiremen and we hope that we can train you to be journeymen in the future and continue to work for us here,” he said.
Jim Anderson, of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, said it was remarkable that 11 students had completed the pre-apprenticeship program despite the coronavirus outbreak. He said the construction industry has a wealth of opportunities for the young.
“I’d like to remind you that everybody that you come in contact with started as an apprentice,” Anderson said. “The owner, the foreman, all started in your shoes.”Follow @natebeck9