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In this successful MPS program, students learn trades from facilities and maintenance department

Dennis Young is like a number of Milwaukee Public Schools students. He’s in his closing yr at MacDowell Montessori School. He’s on the cross nation, monitor and cheer groups. But there’s one slight distinction.

On days when Young, 18, doesn’t have class, he dons a inexperienced protecting jacket, heat-safe gloves and a welder’s helmet. With directions from his mentor within the MPS maintenance department’s welding store, Young lights an acetylene torch.

Sparks fly and pop as Young welds collectively an 82-inch-by-51-inch metallic sheet that may grow to be a part of a radiator guard to cowl heating vents for colleges warmed by steam warmth.

“I haven’t done a weld like this in a while,” stated Young, who graduates later this month. “I’ve mostly been in the field … but it’s still my favorite part of this job.”

That job is placing in practically 40 hours to learn the fundamentals of welding and different abilities wanted to grow to be a sheet metallic employee by way of MPS’ Department of Facilities and Maintenance Services’ youth apprentice program. The program goals to arrange students for a profession within the expert trades, which have a labor scarcity.

Young began his apprenticeship in August. Upon commencement, he’ll proceed his coaching with Local 18 Sheet Metal Hall to achieve the data to be a journeyman sheet metallic employee.

Dennis Young a youth apprentice with the Department of Facilities and Maintenance Services, crafted this piece welding leftover scrap metal during his downtime in the department's sheet metal shop.Dennis Young a youth apprentice with the Department of Facilities and Maintenance Services, crafted this piece welding leftover scrap metal during his downtime in the department's sheet metal shop.

Dennis Young a youth apprentice with the Department of Facilities and Maintenance Services, crafted this piece welding leftover scrap metallic throughout his downtime within the department’s sheet metallic store.

Young went into the trades as a result of he needed choices. He first did a summer time program with We Energies, with aspirations to be a line mechanic, however selected sheet metallic. Young stated he favored welding extra, and it supplied extra alternatives for hands-on studying. Besides, the store workers lets Young acquire leftover scrap metallic to create his personal designs.

“It has opened doors for me,” Young stated.

The apprenticeship program may fairly presumably be the nation’s first operated by a college system’s maintenance department.

“This is a unique atmosphere for them to come and engage with these career opportunities,” says Giles Patterson, this system’s administrator and a supervisor of maintenance and restore. “What better place to gain these opportunities and skill sets with the infrastructure we have in place?”

Nearly all of the trades that help the varsity system are housed within the maintenance department, from carpentry, electricians and plumbers to sheet metallic employees, steamfitters and machinists.

Students obtain in-school coaching of their chosen trades from maintenance personnel who’re licensed journeymen and function the students’ mentors. They learn security procedures, together with OSHA certification, and get hands-on job expertise. Students are paid by the maintenance department and obtain a toolbelt donated by Milwaukee Tool.

Giles Patterson, the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services apprenticeship program administrator discusses the program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.Giles Patterson, the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services apprenticeship program administrator discusses the program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Giles Patterson, the MPS division of facilities and maintenance companies apprenticeship program administrator discusses this system on the MPS division of facilities and maintenance companies constructing on North eleventh Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Once students full this system, the department pairs them with a contractor to proceed their apprenticeship coaching post-graduation. Depending on the commerce, it may take as much as 5 years of coaching and continued training to grow to be a licensed journeyman.

Students apply for this system by way of MPS’s Career and Technical Education department. It’s open to juniors and seniors however students can specific curiosity within the trades as early as their freshman or sophomore yr.

The choice course of is aggressive however this system works with students to make sure they keep on monitor to graduate. Students should preserve a 2.5 GPA and meet college attendance necessities.

Youth apprenticeship is not new to the department. It’s had youth engagement since 1997. But this system grew to become extra formalized 10 years in the past, evolving into its present iteration.

A pipeline for minorities within the development trades

Today, this system has grow to be important in making a pipeline for recruiting minorities within the development trades whereas filling a niche within the expert labor drive.

Blacks and Latinos comprise 4.4 % and 4.7 % of apprentices within the union trades, in comparison with 89.6 % of Whites, in keeping with a joint study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and the Illinois Labor and Employment Relation’s Project for the Middle Class. The research examined 2018 knowledge from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development minority enrollment within the trades.

“Right now, all the trades are looking for apprentices. … With the baby boomers retiring at such a large rate, it is leaving a huge gap in the trades itself,” stated Daniel M. Swiatkowski, a sheet metallic store crew chief and an administrator of the apprenticeship program.

“We are taking care of both problems. We are bringing our students in, giving them the hands-on training, the exposure they need to get an apprenticeship. And as soon as they graduate our program, we get them into an apprenticeship with the trades in the city.”

“We are heavily recruited here,” Patterson added, noting development contractors with MPS know the coaching supplied and the standard of labor the students produce.

Apprentices beginning out make 45 % of a journeyman’s price. For a journeyman electrician, the common price is $73 an hour, a plumber $76.71 an hour, a carpenter $69.15 and a sheet metallic employee $75.08 an hour.

Increasing minority participation within the trades additionally helps slim the wealth hole between their White counterparts. The department partnered with the nonprofit Secure Futures to teach financial literacy to the apprentices, whose wages enhance as they achieve expertise.

“What we want to do is instill in our apprentices the skills of not only the trade but financial literacy to help create what we call generational wealth,” Swiatkowski stated. “Not only are they getting a trade but a skill managing their money and what to do with it.”

Madison Kyles, a 16-year-old Rufus King junior, is an electrician youth apprentice as part of a Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship training program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.Madison Kyles, a 16-year-old Rufus King junior, is an electrician youth apprentice as part of a Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship training program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Madison Kyles, a 16-year-old Rufus King junior, is an electrician youth apprentice as a part of a Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship coaching program on the MPS division of facilities and maintenance companies constructing on North eleventh Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

‘I may nonetheless use my smarts in a approach to assist folks’

Many in this system see a profession within the trades not solely as an opportunity to make good cash however as a substitute for school. That’s the case for Rufus King High School junior Madison Kyles, 16, who’s in her second yr as an apprentice within the DFMS electrician store.

She deliberate to attend school, however her choice got here right down to being financially safe or mired in school debt.

“I thought long and critically about my future and about debt and I knew that I liked working with my hands and I liked helping people,” Kyles stated.

She determined to be an electrician because it allowed her to make use of her essential considering abilities. She began her apprenticeship in August 2023.

“I could still use my smarts in a way to help people,” Kyles stated, noting whereas school is “pushed on minorities,” it is essential to understand folks of coloration could make a great residing and have good careers within the trades.

Marquavion Banks, 20, who graduated from MacDowell Montessori in 2022, began this system as a junior. Now, he works full time as a union development wireman with Hurt Electric.

“Coming in, I didn’t know nothing. I couldn’t tell a receptacle from a switch,” stated Banks, who’s in his second yr of his pre-apprenticeship. “It took me a month to get a pretty good understanding of the basics.”

He credit this system’s hands-on strategy to constructing his abilities. His mentors took the time to elucidate why issues are accomplished sure methods and the results if not. He doesn’t suppose he would have gotten the identical help if he had gone the normal apprenticeship route.

“My mentor would watch over my shoulder and show me what to do next and how to do it. Coach me from the side,” Banks stated.They are great teachers.”

Kyles agreed. “They do a very good job at patience. I think that is very important, especially when you know nothing. I never had anyone get upset at me for asking a question.”

Marquavion Banks, 20, who graduated from MacDowell Montessori in 2022, started the program as a junior. Now, he works full time as a union construction wireman with Hurt Electric.Marquavion Banks, 20, who graduated from MacDowell Montessori in 2022, started the program as a junior. Now, he works full time as a union construction wireman with Hurt Electric.

Marquavion Banks, 20, who graduated from MacDowell Montessori in 2022, began this system as a junior. Now, he works full time as a union development wireman with Hurt Electric.

Banks’ curiosity within the trades got here when he wanted to seek out one thing to do to fill his half-days in school. He was first steered towards school however knew that wasn’t for him.

Eventually, he discovered concerning the youth apprenticeship program. He knew he needed to be an electrician in his sophomore yr when he participated in a We Energies coaching program.

“I liked it, but those guys climb poles. And the voltage, if you touch it, you’re dead on the spot. I know I’m kind of clumsy so that wasn’t for me,” Banks stated.

He most well-liked one thing that stored him safely on the bottom and working with much less voltage. He settled on being an in-house electrician.

Alejandro Barba, 24, went by way of this system in 2017 as a senior at Hamilton High School. Now he works as a journeyman electrician with MPS. He, too, was seeking to fill his half-days when he signed up for the youth apprenticeship.

But working odd jobs like roofing and dishwashing since 12, Barba knew he needed one thing higher.

“That seemed better to me than working at McDonalds or something,” he stated. “There is nothing wrong with McDonalds, (but) I was over careers where you are stuck and there is no improvement, and there’s no moving up. When you get a taste of that, you just know when something is not just for you.”

The most difficult half about being an electrician is greedy all of the ideas. Barba knew the fundamentals from his prior development work. But he stated there’s a number of idea behind it. And he admits he was a bit intimidated to ask questions of Patterson, whom Barba first labored beneath.

“He was telling me about how to wire a three-phase motor, how it is 120 volts — all this terminology and it just went straight through me. I didn’t know anything,” Barba stated. “It is not just all labor, physical grunt work. You got to know what you are doing, think about it and be very organized.”

Though licensed as a journeyman, Barba stated he is nonetheless studying. That’s what he likes about this commerce.

“You don’t stop learning,” he stated. “There is always some new devices, new equipment — just non-stop learning.”

Alejandro Barba is a journeyman electrician who came up through the Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship training program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.Alejandro Barba is a journeyman electrician who came up through the Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship training program at the MPS division of facilities and maintenance services building on North 11th Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Alejandro Barba is a journeyman electrician who got here up by way of the Milwaukee Public Schools apprenticeship coaching program on the MPS division of facilities and maintenance companies constructing on North eleventh Street in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Impressive is how Swiatkowski describes the youth apprentices coming by way of the department’s door. Over the final 10 years, the department has had a 90% completion of students who’ve come by way of this system.

“It’s just amazing their talent, their dedication,” he said. “They know what they want to do, and all we are doing is opening up the doors for them.”

An excellent recruitment instrument

Kyles welcomes the curiosity she will get when working within the colleges. She usually will get shocked appears from male students when strolling by way of the faculties carrying a ladder on her shoulder. Then comes the questions on becoming a member of this system.

“It definitely does inspire some of the girls and even the guys to just get in there,” she stated. “And I if I can do it, particularly as a result of I’m brief, too, you’ll be able to, too.”

It’s a good recruitment tool, added Patterson. He said the biggest hurdle for the program is getting the word out and overcoming the college push from school counselors.

“What we depend on is these students out there sharing their experiences within the school to their peers or fellow students,” Patterson said. “We depend on that heavily to find the quality of the students we are looking for.”

Patterson noted about 25 percent of recruits are often referred by current and past students. This February, nearly 30 students sign commitment papers to join the department’s construction youth apprenticeship program.

Kyles hopes her presence inspires more girls to consider the trades. But it does take some navigation since it is a male-dominated field. She advises girls to be patient with themselves.

“Know yourself,” she said. “You can still be very feminine and still be in the trades.”

Sadly, she added women still need to work harder “to gain the same respect.”

“Just understand that and never take it personally; know what you are capable of,” Kyles said. “I gave myself a chance.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: MPS students learn trades from facilities and maintenance department

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