Apprenticing

Group 4 students (grades 7 and 8) spend their Friday afternoons in the apprenticing program, working at area businesses and gaining organizational and interpersonal skills.

Young Apprentices:

Students at the Newark Center for Creative Learning Are Discovering How the Real World of Business Works From the Inside

(News Journal Article, 1999)


Imagine working for free and loving it. That’s how some students from Newark Center for Creative Learning feel about their jobs as apprentices.
Every time I leave here, I have a smile on my face,” said seventh-grader Matt, an apprentice at the Days of Knights gaming store.The Apprenticing Program has been part of the curriculum since the school opened 27 years ago. Currently, 13 Newark businesses and 14 students participate.
Seventh- and eighth-graders are invited to choose a business where they might like to work. Eighth-graders get first choice; ties are decided by luck of the draw.
“The kids complete mock applications and interviews,” said Heather Suchanec, teacher and apprentice director. “They learn how to sell themselves and how to present their strengths and motivations.”
The Friday afternoon shifts also teach them some things about themselves.”Here (Days of Knights) I stock shelves, answer the phone, help customers, run the cash register, that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t want to do dishes or clean toilets,” said Matt. “I don’t think I’d do very well in a coffee-shop type business.”
Seventh-grader Nick on the other hand, loves working the cafe at Rainbow Books & Music.“It’s fun dealing with the customers and making coffee,” said Nick. “There can be some pressure when you have a customer waiting and you’re trying to make their order, but I don’t think of it as work. It’s just fun.”
An enviable job duty and popular topic for shop talk among the young apprentices, is that of pricer.“Everyone is jealous because Matt and Nick use the price gun,” laughed Brewed Awakenings’ apprentice Colin. “I mean, we all realize that we’d get sick of it and that in itself should be good encouragement to go on to college.”Or own a business themselves one day.“This provides a great opportunity for kids to see what it’s like to run a business vs. medical school or college,” said Terry Belote, co-owner of Brewed Awakenings. “A lot of kids don’t see that as an option.”While Colin aspires to be an architect, an extra pair of hands make greater things possible for Brewed Awakenings.“He takes the initiative. If he comes in and sees we’re packed with people and the sink loaded with dishes, he just starts washing,” said Belote. “It’s great having extra help. He helps us go above and beyond.”
While some apprentices like Colin provide extra assistance, others, like Tyler, are the only assistance.“This is a one-person shop,” said Gale Bissio of Garden Gate Florist. “Tyler is an enormous help to me. She makes bows, stamp cards, cleans coolers – business gets done because she’s there to help out.”
While eight-grader Joy has been successful in avoiding the wrath of rose thorns, she also learned a few things helping out at Main Street Florist.“I’ve learned a bunch of flowers’ names, how to cut different flowers properly, and I also do a lot of listening,” said Joy.Supervisors file progress reports on the students monthly; so far, there have been no complaints.
“We’ve had several excellent apprentices during our seven years with the program,” said John Corradin, Days of Knights co-owner. “As the kids show an aptitude to do something, we let them do it. We give them the most responsibility they can handle – that’s our obligation to the kids and the program.”
As a kind of reward for their dedication to the program, the young workers are permitted to walk to work once a month, stopping for a pizza lunch. Colin and the other kids are amused by the looks they get from passers-by.“You know they’re thinking, “Hey, why aren’t you kids in school?” laughed Colin. But he doesn’t let a few strange looks ruin his day. After a hard, but fun, afternoon shift, he likes to kick back, put his feet up on the ottoman and read the paper.
According to Suchanec, the kids learn important skills that many adults struggle to handle – like dealing with different managerial personalities, and exactly how much do you reveal to your boss?
“And many of the students have been offered paying jobs by their apprentice businesses when the program is over,” Suchanec said. “One student took them up on the offer and rode his bike nearly 10 miles a day to work.”