Wigwam recently partnered with Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) to participate in the Sheboygan Area Youth Apprenticeship (YA) Program. This program works proactively to get more graduating young adults interested and involved in careers in manufacturing. Youth Apprenticeships offer students in high school the opportunity to explore future careers while receiving school credit and pay for the work they are performing. The YA Program is limited to high school juniors and seniors and covers a wide variety of job fields like Health, Finance, Hospitality, Culinary, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) and Manufacturing. In addition to requiring the students to work a minimum of 450 hours on the job, they are required to take one job related class each semester at either their high school if available or at LTC. The student will receive college credit for any classes taken at LTC and the cost of tuition and books is covered by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Last year, the Sheboygan Area YA Program placed approximately 65 students from 11 area high schools into various career opportunities with more than 30 area companies.
For the 2014-2015 school year, Wigwam has hired one student to participant in the YA Program as a Knitting Mechanic. Derric Wilkenson is a senior at Howards Grove High School and will be starting his apprenticeship on July 7th. He will work primarily first shift hours during the summer and then switch to partial afternoon hours during the school year. Wigwam’s hope is that Derric, as well as others involved in the Sheboygan Area YA Program will develop a renewed interest in manufacturing and look to Wigwam as a career choice after graduation.
When asked to name his favorite thing about working at Wigwam thus far, Derric said, “It’s getting hands on experience while I’m still in high school and being able to work during the school year. I also value the fact that Wigwam is a family company and makes all if it’s products in the United States.” He is still figuring out what his favorite Wigwam sock style might be, but will be busy testing out socks when he is volunteering at the Fire Department, hunting and fishing. As for the Youth apprenticeship program, Derric relayed, “It is a great program and I would definitely recommend it to others.”