Hundreds of students declared their plans for the future during Decision Day activities Friday at local public high schools.
Decision Day is a time when high school seniors across the country pledge to attend college, pursue further training or enter the military after graduation. It is often called College Decision Day, because the biggest share of seniors plan to attend college the following fall, but it includes seniors committing to military service, trade school or an apprenticeship.
It’s similar to Signing Day, when student athletes sign letters of intent to participate in a specific sport at a particular college.
Greer Sisson visited Thomas Jefferson High School Friday to spotlight the option of entering an apprenticeship. Sisson is the state director of the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship program.
Brayden Nelson, a senior at Thomas Jefferson, has already worked six hours a week for several weeks at Lozier, where he plans to complete a welding apprenticeship. He is currently welding shelf units for the company.
“Lozier’s a great company and really opened doors, and it just kind of makes sense to go into it,” he said.
Brayden is the first Council Bluffs Community Schools high school student to begin a registered apprenticeship, said Paul Hans, work-based learning coordinator.
Lozier needs to be able to recruit new talent, said Ralph Kleinsmith, talent sourcing and development manager at the company.
The manufacturer has an in-house internship and apprenticeship program but has never taken high school students before.
“Council Bluffs is really forward-thinking,” he said. “This is an excellent collaboration. This is the beginning of what we think will be a pipeline of skilled workers.”
Students like Brayden are good job candidates, because they’ve already had a chance to see if they like a particular trade, have learned how to read diagrams and have at least some skill in the trade, Kleinsmith said.
Brayden participated in Thomas Jefferson’s career-technical education classes, which became part of the TradeWorks Academy.
“It’s a great program,” he said. “I took an extracurricular activity at TradeWorks, and she had us weld a little bit even there. So I went for it and found welding is actually kind of fun.”
Although some of his hands-on work time was cancelled because of COVID-19, Brayden didn’t let that stop him from honing his skills.
“I had my own welder at home that my parents got me,” he said.
Brayden followed up with Iowa Western Community College’s welding program and earned a certificate during high school.
Other Thomas Jefferson students who participated in Decision Day activities plan to pursue a variety of careers. Stephanie Pacheco Gomez, a Pottawattamie Promise Scholar, will study nursing at Iowa Western. Lexi Chambers plans to enter Iowa Western’s veterinary technician program.
Cassidy Powell plans to study industrial engineering at Kansas University. And Spencer Zakaras and Caitlyn Glaser Butler plan to attend South Dakota State University for computer science and English education, respectively.