'Ready and qualified:' Brown Deer HS students take part in trade skill apprenticeship prep program

BROWN DEER -- A Brown Deer teacher is helping students go from the classroom straight to the workforce with a program that teaches them trade skills and connections.

Craig Griffie

Few teachers encourage their students to put down their textbooks, but Craig Griffie believes some lessons are better learned with a hard hat. The Brown Deer High School shop teacher wanted to give students more options. He found one in the trades.

"This is why I teach," Griffie said. "It's a well-documented fact they are going to have a hard time when the experienced people retire."

Jim Anderson

Griffie created the "Industry Advisory Group" -- a not-for-credit class with career potential. The hands-on curriculum of steels, studs and drywall was created with the help of Jim Anderson and the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

"The trades need younger people coming in," said Anderson. "That's what our contractors are looking for, just a little bit of extra help."

It's a partnership aimed at drafting young people into a field where their help is needed. By the end of the semester, students understand the terminology and skills need to apply for a paid apprenticeship. It is a valuable option for students, like Ryan Awe, who are ready to leave the traditional classroom.


"College isn't for everybody," he said. "If you don't want to go to college and love working with your hands, this is a very, very, very good way."

Ryan Awe

Every student in the program also builds connections. They interview with multiple contractors and most, according to Griffie, are offered an employment contract by the time they graduate -- leaving high school with a paycheck, hard hat and career.

"That's the goal. They can cross the graduation stage knowing that they are ready and qualified to start a registered apprenticeship," said Griffie.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the students had to do their interviews virtually. Job offers will likely be awarded the same way, and some students may not start work until the pandemic ends. However, industry experts say, when it does, they will need young, skilled people -- like the Brown Deer students -- to join the ranks.