Reflecting on 10 Years of Service

Photo caption: Helen Russell with one of the first groups of apprentices at Boston Teachers Union

“The Apprentice Learning program was my first real work experience. It showed me that I had options for my future jobs. If it wasn’t for the Apprentice Learning program, I would not have thought about my future profession at such a young age. I personally always had a goal of college, and the Apprentice Learning program opened my eyes to more job opportunities after college.” ~Kaya Fields, AL Alumni 2013-14, Mission Hill School.

Ten years ago, before I launched Apprentice Learning, I met a middle school student, Amaya, who was passionate about becoming a lawyer. Her family had been homeless and a lawyer helped them secure housing. Amaya was so deeply impacted by that experience that she, too, wanted to help others in this way. Except—she hated reading and thought it was a waste of time.  What if this young person could visit a lawyer and learn what skills and knowledge it takes to reach her career dreams? As an educator, I knew the value of learning firsthand through direct experience. Wouldn’t seeing a lawyer at work in a law firm motivate her to use reading to reach her career dream? 

There are a dearth of opportunities for middle schoolers be exposed to careers or even to get work experience. Yet, we see how eager 13- and 14-year-olds were to learn about potential career paths in Boston and what capable contributors they can be. Apprentice Learning was born out of a need to inspire middle school students as they explore careers and value what they know. Our mission is to provide real-world work experiences for middle grade youth. In direct partnership with schools and employers, we leverage career exploration to teach skills, ignite purpose, and nurture dreams.

Since its founding, AL has provided career education, work skills education, and workplace-based learning to over 1,000 BPS middle school students. Currently, AL partners with five high need BPS schools in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain. Over 70 local businesses, and other youth-serving organizations, partner with AL to offer one-day career explorations, 12-week workplace apprenticeships, two paid internships for alumni, a summer STEM career exploration for girls, and job skills 2.0 for 9th grade students.

Our alumni, the oldest who are now 24-25 years old, have obtained college degrees, and a few are completing advanced degrees in public health and law. On average, they exceeded the annual high school graduation rates of their peers in Boston Public Schools by 17%. Most importantly, 93% of our alumni survey respondents reported they have gone on to paid work experiences. 

As another one of our alumni shared, “Apprentice Learning taught me the value of working and what is expected of me. Learning this at a younger age helped me to obtain skills most adults don’t learn until college. I was able to learn skills such as networking, time management, asking questions and much more. This program helped to pave me on a path to success!” ~ Jocelyn Weir, AL Alumni, 2014-15, BTU

As we kick-off our ten-year anniversary, we will be hosting events and sharing more blog posts from alumni, board members, and partners. 

If you are interested in becoming a worksite partner, reach out to us here.

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