Pre-Apprenticeship Pioneers: Boone EDGE

By: Jill Janes, Director of Innovative Learning at Boone Community School District and Kris Byam, Principal at Boone Community School District

How many of us have looked back at an experience and marveled at how much was learned along the way? Pre-apprenticeship programs recognize the power of experiential learning for high school students. At Boone High School, pre-apprenticeship fulfills two goals: ensuring all students have the skills necessary for success after high school and strengthening connections in our local community.

With the support of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, we developed an Iowa STEM BEST program in 2017, Boone EDGE (Empowering Desire, Guiding Experience), that includes pre-apprenticeship avenues for student learning. Open to all students who have a desire to discover their true talents and passions, the program aims to give students authentic learning experiences with industry partners. EDGE is built on a foundation of core skills needed for success in any future career:

  1. Employability and professionalism
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Flexibility and adaptability
  5. Self-awareness
  6. Cultural and global awareness

To bring these skills to life through pre-apprenticeship, we partnered with ABC of Iowa and a local sponsor business. We built a curriculum that helped students gain the EDGE core skills above, learn specific skills for all construction trades, and explore apprentice occupations. We began by examining our current high school coursework and working with our partners to determine additional needs to address specific topics.

Initially, we were challenged by time and resources. Our teachers’ schedules were already full, and a traditional classroom wouldn’t provide the rich experiences we envisioned. A hybrid-approach to learning became our solution. We developed online modules providing flexibility for students and teachers. We paired each learning module with a hands-on lab at a local job-site with our sponsor business. These high-interest labs keep students excited about learning and help them envision using their new skills in a future career.

As the program took off in 2017-18, students became ambassadors for pre-apprenticeships. As one student explained, many of his friends were taking college courses during high school; the pre-apprenticeship program was the equivalent method for him to begin his planned path as a registered apprentice in plumbing after graduation. It wasn’t long before our initial group of three students grew to five, and additional sponsor businesses reached out to become involved, too.

At the close of the school year, all five of our students secured interviews for registered apprenticeships after graduation. Four students accepted positions with one full year of a four-year apprenticeship program already completed. We recognized this accomplishment with our community during our senior awards celebrations. This public recognition helped spread our message that pre-apprenticeship is a valuable option for future success.

As we prepare for the 2018-19 school year, we are excited to expand our efforts. We’ve created a four-semester program that will allow students to begin their pre-apprenticeship as juniors and gain an additional year of specialized learning with an internship. We also plan to explore additional pre-apprenticeship programs in information technology, engineering and culinary arts with local partners. We are convinced that pre-apprenticeships give our students an EDGE.