Students at Big Lake Schools were introduced to apprenticeships and other career-focused opportunities through the high school’s annual Youth Apprenticeship Career Fair on September 20.

Twenty-nine local businesses, companies and institutions set up booths with materials and hands-on stations to help students explore career possibilities that do not require a traditional four-year degree. Around 900 students in grades 9-12 and 240 students in grade 5 attended the event, walking around and stopping at different booths to find out about well-paying, successful career pathways in various industries, and meet and talk with individuals in these fields. The fair was also open to parents and guardians along with other invited guests invested in furthering technical career exploration.

Exhibitors included:

Big Lake’s Youth Apprenticeship Career Fair helps promote the high school’s Youth Apprenticeship program. Under Principal Bob Dockendorf’s leadership, the program has received widespread recognition for its commitment to helping high school students learn technical skills and get exposure to multiple aspects of an industry. Students who participate in the program receive classroom instruction concurrent with work-based learning to help prepare them for a successful future. According to Principal Dockendorf,

Youth Apprenticeship is a program that takes career exploration to the next level and allows high school students an opportunity to learn highly technical skills from a trained worksite mentor and get paid. Students spend a designated amount of time learning the skill from the mentor and are then allowed to progress on their own until they reach the industry standard for that skill. It is the goal of youth apprenticeship to expose students to a wide variety of workplace departments to maximize their career exposure. Wright Technical Center’s program [in partnership with Big Lake High School] will provide training based on statewide youth apprenticeship curriculum guidelines, endorsed by business and industry. Students work 10+ hours per week during the school year and are encouraged to work during the summer, depending on business needs.

Part of the Youth Apprenticeship program includes a Youth Apprentice Signing Day, a day to celebrate career advancement opportunities for high school juniors and seniors and give apprenticeships some well-earned attention.

The long-term goal of the youth apprenticeship program is to help the apprentice become highly skilled in the profession of interest. By broadening students’ perspectives on available careers, students can discover what they are passionate about and learn how to pursue it.

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