By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Not knowing what to do with the rest of your life is a common problem for high school students, something Marko Glassock knows all too well.
He got some help figuring out his options thanks to an apprenticeship program in his school.
The Buffalo teen testified this week to Wyoming lawmakers during a Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee meeting about why he feels apprenticeship programs like Work Smart should be in every school district.
“I was very fortunate enough to have a teacher willing to help me through this process of finding what my dream job was,” he said. “Through the first semester of Working Smart, I took dozens of surveys to find my interests that could pertain to a certain occupation.”
A Head Start
The result of the process turned out much differently than he thought it would, Glassock said.
Throughout his high school career, he said he’d always thought of himself as a farm shop and wood shop kid. But through job shadowing opportunities, he came to realize there was a profession he found much more exciting.
Now he has settled on becoming an electrician and wants to start his own home-grown Wyoming business.
“By the end of my semester, I was heading out to job sites and getting paid to help with the work that I was allowed to do,” he told lawmakers. “I earned a summer job while I was going through the process of obtaining my first electrical apprentice card.”
A Clear Path
Now a senior at Buffalo High School, Glassock said he’s starting the process of on-the-job training and taking online classes, which his boss helped him identify, that best fit his goals.
Once he has finished the classes, he’ll be ready to take his journeyman’s exam, after which he’ll pursue a masters, and then he’ll be ready to hang out his own shingle as a certified electrician in Wyoming.
“I love being a farm shop kid, I love building stuff in the woodshed as well,” he testified. “And I was a little bit clueless about what I wanted to do, and I had multiple ideas, but I truly had no idea until I actually got the opportunity to go and experience some things of everyday work life with those in my community that do partake in those activities.”
Not every student in Wyoming has access to the same guidance and apprenticeship programs as Glassock. While some districts have robust apprenticeship programs, others offer nothing at all.
“It really quite honestly … becomes an equity issue,” said Wyoming Career and Technical Education Director Dr. Michelle Aldrich. “When we have some districts where students are allowed to earn up to three elective credits toward graduation through work experience and (then) we have some districts who allow nothing.”
The program Glassock participated in is not part of the state’s official student learner agreements. It’s an example of how the state is underutilizing its resources in home-growing its own workforce.
“There’s a lot of work-based learning going on around the state where that opportunity or that resource isn’t being fully utilized,” Aldridge said. “I just visited with a colleague at Department of Workforce Services this morning to find out how many were student learner agreements and how many districts have utilized that opportunity.
“And I was told that since its inception, there’s been one district and one student that has actually filed that form, even though we’ve talked to all 48 districts about that.”
Cindy DeLancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance, echoed Aldrich’s concerns about equity.
“Every child in the state should have the opportunity to get credit for work-based learning, regardless of the impact to other curriculum in the district,” she testified to the committee. “That should not be the driving force behind how our districts are making decisions.
“We should be student-focused and working on developing our workforce so Wyoming can remain a leader in the nation and in the region, to be able to employ and keep our children here for future generations.”
Delancey and Aldrich both told lawmakers they believe the Apprenticeship and Job Training Promotion in Schools bill is a good start on making opportunities more uniform across the state while creating accountability for all parties involved.
“I know there’s a lot more work to be done,” DeLancey said. “But if this is what it takes to help us get that path, my members really want to see that level of clarity and accountability and responsibility for all parties in this conversation, not just the state agencies or the districts, or the department.
“You know, everybody equally shares the role, the lift here, to really get us across the finish line.”