Work-based Learning: a career pathway for many BGPS high school students

May 14, 2021 cbrown

Work-based Learning provides hands-on education for high schoolers in Battle Ground Public Schools

May 14, 2021

Battle Ground Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education programs offer high school students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a long list of job fields including audio/video; computer programming; agriculture; construction; early childhood education; health care; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); and many more. While much of that learning takes place in the classroom, many high school students have taken advantage of Work-based Learning opportunities made possible through the CTE program and partnerships with local employers.

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The Work-based Learning program allows high school students to earn income working on a part-time basis, gain up to three credits over their junior and senior years, and often go on to full-time employment after graduation. 

“They learn young and when you’re young that’s when you learn the most,” said Michael Bolsoy, a supervisor with Prairie Electric. “By the time they decide what they want to do, they’re prepared to be good hands for us.”

At Tapani, Inc. in Battle Ground, students usually start in the equipment shop, keeping tools clean and in working order, as well as helping crews check out and return what they need for their current job.

“They see how things are treated and what it costs, and they start to get sometimes even frustrated, because they’re having to spend all this time fixing it or cleaning it,” said Shawna Bergeron, safety coordinator for Tapani. “So when they go out in the field, they have more respect for their tools.”

“To be able to work while I’m still in school, it gives me something to do and make some money,” added Andy Tapani, a sophomore at Battle Ground High School who is running the Tapani equipment shed.

At Prairie Electric, students often start out organizing the huge shelves of parts that are required for electricians in the field, preparing orders for crews and putting things back where they belong.

“They learn the parts and pieces and they see that this is what it takes to do the job,” said lead foreman Andrew Muonio. “It’s a pretty cool learning experience for them.”

“Every day I learn something new,” agreed BGHS junior Rory Uskoski, who said he plans to someday become a commercial electrician, many of whom start at more than $80,000 a year.

In the prefab department, students are busy assembling parts to be sent out for large jobs. Other students work in the mechanics bay, repairing company vehicles and gaining valuable experience.

“Gives them a chance to learn and see what’s ahead,” Bolsoy said, “and then they decide if they want to be in the program or not.”

Bergeron says almost 90 percent of the students who’ve come through Tapani have ended up working there full time, while the few that don’t usually end up in a similar industry, such as plumbing or electrical.

Students in the Work-based Learning program are required to maintain their grades, attend work and classes on a regular basis and receive satisfactory employee evaluations from their supervisors. 

Successful completion, however, can often lead quickly to a living wage job in a high-demand industry. At the very least, students often experience improved self-confidence while obtaining real-world experience, connecting with adult role models, and learning how to apply their education in a meaningful way.

U2 can do it apprenticeship webinar

A May 20 webinar provided more details on how apprenticeship programs might benefit you. It included presentations from previous graduates who shared how the program helped them. If you were unable to attend, the video is now available online (Note: the recording starts with the first presenter).

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