High School Trades and Apprenticeship Programs Taking Hold in Illinois
Youth apprenticeships provide multiple career pathway opportunities for high school students in Illinois. Students enrolled in these programs have the opportunity to enter the workforce upon graduation, or they could enroll in college and continue their education.
Apprenticeships involve a work-based learning model, commonly referred to as a ‘learn and earn’ model, where on-the-job training is combined with relevant classroom instruction. The apprentice acquires new skills and applies them on the job while under supervision. Upon completion of the program, the apprentice receives an industry-recognized credential.
The goal of an apprenticeship is to provide students with advanced skill sets that meet specific employer needs. In many cases, employers hire students who have been through their apprenticeship program full-time upon graduation and cover additional training and certification expenses.
Apprenticeships represent one solution to employers’ talent needs while allowing apprentices to begin solid careers without taking on large amounts of college debt. Apprenticeship programs have expanded well beyond construction and trade industries, and now include areas such as healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, banking, insurance, transportation, distribution, and logistics.
After seeing its enrollment drop to its lowest-ever levels from 2000-2014, the Capital Area Career Center in Springfield has experienced a resurgence in recent years. CACC now serves over 850 students from 21 school districts, as well as over 200 adult students in the LPN, CNA, and skilled trades programs. CACC offers 22 different programs, and enrollment continues to rise. In the past two years, CACC has added programs in HVAC, IT, medical industry, horticulture production, electronics, and engineering.
“CACC is one of the seven charter career centers in the state of Illinois and dates back to 1966,” stated Rep. Mike Coffey (R-Springfield). “Hundreds of students benefit from the training they receive there every year. The critical, on-the-job skills students are learning at CACC will serve them for the rest of their lives and help them earn a great living in a field they desire.”
In 2021, the Collinsville School District aligned with the City of Collinsville to begin a registered apprenticeship program, with training through the Gateway Convention Center and Collinsville Parks and Recreation Department. This initiative is the first U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program in the area for high school students with disabilities. The program benefits high school students with disabilities who are transitioning into adulthood and the workplace. The training opportunities include housekeeping, events support, and landscaping work.
“The program in Collinsville is extraordinary and unique,” stated Rep. Kevin Schmidt (R-Millstadt). “Students who might otherwise be forgotten will now be prepared and trained for jobs as they enter adulthood. This is an amazing collaboration that benefits all parties involved.”