High school student apprentices receive on-the-job training while earning their diplomas

Man in front of John Deere mural
Saheed Pryce

Seventeen-year-old high school senior Saheed Pryce always knew he was interested in CNC (computer numerical control) machining but wasn't sure how to get into the field.

Now, through a registered apprenticeship program at the Waterloo Career Center in Waterloo, Iowa, Pryce and other high school students are getting a chance to work at places like John Deere's Drivetrain Operations facility to see if it's the right career for them.

"This apprenticeship has given me a career path and ideas about what I want to do with my career," Pryce said of the experience. "This summer I have been able to put in quality work and I can say 'I did that.' Then I see that work being used for a higher purpose."

The High School Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), uses an "earn and learn" model through which students graduate with a high school diploma, earn college credits and national industry credentials. They also start on a career path that continues after high school graduation – whether that is a continuation of their registered apprenticeship along with college, college only, registered apprenticeship only or other full-time employment.

As a business partner in these programs, John Deere currently hosts over 35 apprentices working at facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. The company has participated in these high school apprentice programs since 2019 and has hired 13 apprentices as full-time employees upon graduation.

Man using a simulator
Daniel Sumner, an apprentice at Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, works at a simulator.

Pryce heard about the program through his school and the recently opened Waterloo Career Center. He began taking CNC machining classes at the Center during the 2020-2021 school year and his teacher suggested he pursue a RAP position.

"The Registered Apprenticeship Program allows for training and employment in an environment accurately representing the industry of interest for the student," said Karianne Kristensen, the coordinator in Component Manufacturing who schedules the RAP students. "This is important because it provides high school students insight into our business and operations prior to making the decision to sign on as a full-time employee after graduation. Saheed has been able to experience multiple machining processes throughout both the Drivetrain and Engine Works Operations while still completing qualifications for his high school education."