A student who’ll be a senior at Pella High School this fall is already on the payroll at Vermeer Manufacturing.
Charles Vander Velden is the first student to enter a new apprenticeship program for welders that’s a partnership of the school, Vermeer and Des Moines Area Community College. Vander Velden started his apprenticeship in welding today.
“I saw this as a great opportunity for my future,” Vander Velden said.
Vander Velden’s school in Pella has developed a “Registered Apprenticeship Playbook” that businesses, students and schools may use.
“The playbook can easily be replicated by schools throughout the state…so it’s been a great learning experience for us,” said Pella High School principal Eric Nelson.
A dozen more students have expressed interest in starting Pella’s welding apprenticeship program this fall. That’s about seven percent of the entire class of incoming seniors.
“They’re going to earn money while they learn,” Nelson said. “The second thing is they’re going to have a career that they can be passionate about.”
The students in Pella’s “Career Academy” will be able to complete their apprenticeship within a year after graduating from high school. Des Moines Area Community College president Rob Denson indicated those students also will be able to get a two-year degree from DMACC as they complete their work-based program.
“This is just a start, this particular registered apprenticeship wtih Vermeer, Pella Schools and DMACC,” Denson said. “I mean, we are talking to other companies already and I know that other community colleges are talking to their companies…because we really do want to take the best practices from everyone and make this a national model.”
There are more than 700 registered apprenticeship programs underway in Iowa today, with more than 7,700 active apprentices.