Youth Apprentice experience at Johnsonville spurs PHS student

STEPHANIE THIEL STEPHANIE THIEL Note: In recognition of Wisconsin Career and Technical Education Month, we are featuring Plymouth High School students who are serving Youth Apprenticeships.

Plymouth High School senior Stephanie Thiel is serving a biosciences Youth Apprenticeship at Johnsonville Sausage.

On the job, she plates environmental, harvest monitoring index and ecoli swabs; makes and autoclaves media (a bacterial growth inhibitor); autoclaves biohazards; prepares samples for salt, moisture and fat content testing in the FOSS machine; and assists microbiologists with any other task at hand.

“I enjoy getting the hands-on experience in the food processing industry in not only my area within the microbiology lab but also the chemistry lab, research and development, sensory, and many others,” she said.

Stephanie has learned a lot about the depths of the process it takes to get items from the raw state to a finished product. “It is not something as easy as one would think,” she said. “I had to learn many procedures in which Johnsonville follows to ensure highest quality, especially in the area of micro and chemistry testing.”

No single department is in charge of getting the finished product out the door, she added. “All departments work together in some way, and it has been a very good experience doing just that,” she said.

Stephanie has been accepted into the University of Wisconsin Connections Program, and will attend UW-Fond du Lac next school year and then transfer to the Madison campus to major in food science.

She encourages other students to consider serving a Youth Apprenticeship. “Being in the ‘real world’ industry can be intimidating, but it is all so worth it,” she said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and take it from me I made plenty while learning how to carry out my everyday tasks. The only way you can learn is by failing every once and awhile.”

Youth Apprenticeship offers the opportunity of a lifetime, Stephanie added. “It is not every day someone your age gets paid hands-on experience in the industry before attending college and obtaining a degree,” she said. “These experiences put you ahead of the average for many years to come.”

About Youth Apprenticeship

This program coordinated by Lakeshore Technical College integrates school-based and work-based learning to provide academic and occupational skills for high school students. Apprenticeships are available in finance, transportation, culinary, hospitality, agriculture, health care, STEM, manufacturing, information technology, and architecture and construction.

Students may participate in their junior or senior year. Applications for 2015-16 are due March 2. Those selected will interview with a company, which makes the choice about who to hire. Students can start working as early as June, and must work at least 450 hours over the next 12 months, for which they are paid. Students also must take a class relevant to the job each semester; grants are available for students to attend a LTC class for free.

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