Youth movement

From the pages of In Business magazine.

In the recruitment and retention battle, it pays for companies to gain exposure with potential future employees when they’re young.

Nowhere is that more apparent than with Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program, which integrates school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in employability and occupational skills defined by Wisconsin industries.

Local programs provide training based on statewide youth apprenticeship curriculum guidelines endorsed by business and industry. Students are simultaneously enrolled in academic classes to meet high school graduation requirements, in a youth apprenticeship related instruction class, and are employed by a participating employer under the supervision of a skilled mentor.

Among Madison-based Settlers bank’s four student interns this summer is Emily Chermak, an HR and marketing intern who is the only one of the group participating through the Youth Apprenticeship program.

“The benefits to an employer are tremendous,” states Trisha Thompson, SVP HR/marketing and YA employer coordinator for Settlers bank. “The employer hires the apprentice, creating a recruitment pipeline, works with highly motivated students, has the opportunity to provide influence on curriculum offerings and, in some cases, is able to provide supervisory opportunities for other staff. It’s a win-win to everyone involved.”

The Dane County program has been very successful to date. Currently there are 267 enrollees with over 13 districts and 14 schools involved, and 207 active employers with an average wage earned of $10.89 per hour. High school graduation rates for enrollees was at 100% for the 2016–17 year, with 86% of students going on to post-secondary education and 85% being offered employment after completing their apprenticeship.

“We’ve watched Emily grow into her position here at Settlers bank,” notes Dave Fink, Settlers bank president. “What started as a marketing internship morphed into a marketing apprenticeship. Her level of expectations from the experience increased and so did ours. She’s participated in event management activities, social media scheduling, and made a great presentation to our executive team with a series of marketing recommendations to commemorate our 10th anniversary. You could just see her confidence build and grow over her time here.”



According to Josh Fassl from the Dane County School Consortium, the program has led to some notable job prospects for students after graduation. An apprentice from DeForest with a different bank is still employed there and is now an IT security specialist; an automotive apprentice from Middleton is now making $200,000 per year in an automotive sales management position; and a Sun Prairie participant in the STEM apprenticeship program now works with Microsoft.

Thompson notes Chermak has received valuable experience in human resources, marketing, and general business that many other students don’t have access to.

Thompson adds that participation in the program has allowed the bank to become top-of-mind for young people looking to gain professional experience. “This allows us to attract high-caliber interns now, and opens the door to building relationships that may lead to hiring these accomplished individuals as regular employees once they’ve completed their education.”

More information on the Youth Apprenticeship program for employers is available at

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