LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GERMAN APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM
German-style apprenticeships have recently come to Georgia. The Newton County School System (NCSS) and Rockdale County Public Schools have worked with several area businesses as well as other organizations to offer this opportunity. The first local German apprentices began their experience with the start of school this fall.
To get the NCSS’s perspective on this new program, the Covington News recently interviewed Tim Schmitt, NCSS’s director of career technical and agricultural education and workforce innovation.
The News: What is a German apprenticeship?
For right now we are calling it our “German Apprenticeship Industrial Maintenance Program.” The premise is that a German apprenticeship starts with 10th grade students and matches them through an interview process with a company that agrees to take them on as an apprentice for three years during tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade. And, while they are doing that, the students also dual enroll in Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s ( GPTC’s) industrial maintenance program.
We are building the program as we go. However, we know there is 100 years of proven success in Germany, so we know it is a good model. As I understand it, there are over 300 different apprenticeship programs in Germany and about 70 percent of all Germans receive their training in those programs.
The differences for what it can look like here presents a little bit of a risk. But to see the students and parents reacting positively right out of the gate is promising and they have not even gotten to the really interesting stuff yet.
The News: How is this program different from traditional youth apprenticeship? Schmitt:
In traditional youth apprenticeships students don’t start until 11th grade. They get their academic training primarily at the high school level in classes that align with their apprenticeship job and work-based training at the company. NCSS’s work- based learning coordinator works with each company’s people to develop a training plan for each student. The plans are different for each company and each student.
The German apprenticeship program follows a different model. There is a standardized set of desired learning outcomes and curriculum dictated by the German Chamber of Commerce and jointly delivered by the technical college and the company. All apprentices in a particular program and preparing for a particular career, in our case industrial maintenance, follow the same plan and learn the same concepts and skills.
I don’t know if any way is better. Our youth apprenticeship students are very good. We have about 94 students in youth apprenticeship and 6 students in the German apprenticeship program.
The News: Were many students interested? Schmitt:
Initially 40 to 50 of last year’s 9th graders expressed interest. After the college entrance exam that shrunk to about 30. After the industry tour and more information sessions there were about 18. The companies interviewed 13 for six spots.
The News: Who are the NCSS students and companies involved? Schmitt:
We have three students from Alcovy High School. They are Steven Holmes who is working with General Mills, James Kauffman with FiberVisions, and Matt Launder with Michelin. There are two from Eastside High School: Amaru Lackey working with General Mills and Nolan Miller with Nisshinbo. Rashid Outar from Newton High School is apprenticing with Verescence.
The News: What will a German apprenticeship student’s week and program look like? Schmitt:
Every day the students go to their home high school for first period, just like any Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA) student does. On Tuesday and Thursday they are bused to the NCCA and then bused to GPTC for the day. GPTC is contributing specific courses aligned with the prescribed learning outcomes and curriculum.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they are bused to NCCA for a required high school class during second period and then they go to work for the rest of the day, but instead of working on a task that the company might have them do as a regular employee, they work under an assigned mentor on what are called “Christiani projects.”
These projects are designed to teach concepts, skills, and applications prescribed by the German Chamber of Commerce. The students have a workbench and standardized tools purchased by the company. We are new at this, but I believe, that Christiani projects start with very simple things, like ‘here is a block of steel, turn that into this part based on these specifications.’ They start that basic and develop over time to more advanced things.
The company agrees to pay the students $8 per hour as 10th graders, $10 per hour as 11th graders, and $12 per hour as 12th graders. They get paid to work on Christiani projects. Now as they go through the program, I believe there is time built in for them to not only work on their Christiani projects, but also to work on some regular job projects.
But remember this first group is only 15 years old. Per U.S. Department of Labor rules, they cannot even go to the companies right now. So we are working with the companies to have the workbenches, tools, and Christiani projects housed at the NCCA until they get old enough—16 years old—to go to the companies.
Newton County School System students are recognized by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Aug. 14 at the State Capitol during a special signing ceremony into the German Apprenticeship program.