After cooking up a pre-apprenticeship pathway for culinary arts students earlier this year, the Milton Hershey School has crafted a second program for high school students interested in carpentry careers.
With approval from the state Department of Labor and Industry, Milton Hershey, which serves boys and girls from lower-income families, has partnered with Harrisburg-based Pyramid Construction Services on the new carpentry program.
“We wanted our kids to have more post-secondary career options,” said Dave Curry, the school’s director of career and technical education.
The goal of pre-apprenticeship programs, which are starting to pop up around the commonwealth, is to give students who want to enter the workforce directly after high school more early training opportunities.
It also is a way to create a pipeline for employers who are looking to find skilled people or replace aging workers.
“This is a big deal. We are finding we have to reach students earlier in their educational careers to allow them to see the benefits and get interested in the trades,” said Mike Klinepeter, Pyramid’s executive vice president.
Like many construction-related firms, Pyramid always has needs for skilled laborers. Carpenters are often in need at construction companies, as are electricians, drywall and framing contractors, plumbers and other heating and air-conditioning technicians.
Pyramid, which has 75 employees, aims to hire at least one or two vo-tech graduates each year from the schools in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. Klinepeter said this new pre-apprenticeship pipeline at Milton Hershey should help the company hire one or two more students each year, who would then go through an adult apprenticeship program.
“This seemed like a good fit for us,” he said. “A lot of people are retiring, plus this is addressing increased demand for labor.”
The pre-apprenticeship credit and certificate will count toward a student’s future apprenticeship at the Keystone Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, more commonly known as ABC Keystone. Students can earn credit for a year of related technical instruction, Curry said.
“It incentivizes more trade careers,” he said.
Through the pre-apprenticeship program, students also can earn 32 credit hours toward an associate’s degree in a related field at HACC after completing their apprenticeship and related technical instruction.
Milton Hershey hopes to see at least one to four seniors each year going into a carpentry apprenticeship because of this new program, Curry said. He also expects to partner with other construction-related firms, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC companies, to expand the employment opportunities for students.
“This is a really special time,” Curry said. “What we want and need in education aligns with what is wanted and needed in the industry, especially the trades.”
Milton Hershey hopes to expand pre-apprenticeship opportunities to all 11 career and technical education pathways at the school. The health care industry, which is growing significantly because of large health system and insurance partnerships, could be the next area of focus for this type of program.
Currently, there are more than 1,500 apprenticeships available in Pennsylvania. The Wolf administration has said it hopes to double the number of registered apprentices in Pennsylvania by 2025, up from the current figure of 15,000.
The governor has been pushing for more apprenticeship programs as part of his recent workforce development initiative, dubbed PAsmart.