You’ve heard about Work-based Learning (WBL), one of the technical high schools’ flagship programs that allow students to leave the school building and work for companies during the school day, gain hands-on career development experience, and often get paid. But what is a typical day like for a student in WBL?
We got an inside look, visiting Dane Thorogood, owner of Thorogood Electric in Enfield, CT, and his WBL student Devin Sanchez, a senior in the Electrical program at Howell Cheney Technical High School. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: Why did Thorogood Electric decide to participate in the work-based learning program?
Dane: I made a choice to attend Cheney Tech for high school because I knew I wanted to work with my hands, and I knew I wanted to have my own company. [WBL] is an opportunity to give someone the same experience I had – to get an early start on their career. To grab a student at a young age – a top tier student who has a real dedication to the field – and teach them how things are done is a benefit to me and my company. These students have already put three or four years into this, they realize they have a passion for it, they understand it.
Q: Tell me about a typical day at work?
Devin: I go on work-based learning three days a week during the shop cycle, and on academic cycle, I’m here for a half day. I email my teachers before 7 a.m. to let them know I’m on WBL so I get credit for being present for the day. I drive myself to work and get here by 7:15 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. start time. We get the tools out, set up the vans, and are on the road by 7:30 a.m. heading to the job. Then I go home around 3:30 p.m. I get credit for being here; a grade at school and a paycheck at end of week. And at the end of each cycle I have to fill out a report.
Q: What is the report about?
Devin: Dane has to sign the report. Basically, it tells the school how well I did at work over the quarter.
Dane: It’s for accountability. Devin has to answer to me, the guidance counselor, the electrical teacher and his parents, and we all make sure he’s doing the right thing, like keeping up with his assignments. He inherited a lot of responsibility – a lot of commitment and dedication.
Q: What types of jobs have you been working on lately?
Dane: Residential, a lot of new construction. We’ve worked on a restaurant and an urgent care place. We run PVC, pull wire. Today we ran 2,000 feet of Cat5, a communication wire.
Q: Who does Devin work with during the day?
Dane: I always run two man crews – a journeyman and an apprentice – for safety reasons, and the reports we run. One man drives, the other writes up slips. Plus, we are doing electrical, which can be hazardous. If someone gets shocked there is someone there to save his life.
Q: Do get to take breaks, eat lunch?
Dane: Because our work is so diverse, we don’t always take regular breaks. We might work 45 minutes at a job, drive a half hour to the next, work, more travel time. So they snack in between…it’s really a self- managed thing; go eat when you need to.
Devin: Sometimes we stop for a bite. It’s flexible.
Q: Do you talk to each other on most days – catch up on jobs and tasks to be completed?
Dane: Its Devin’s responsibility to call me at the end of the day and let me know he’s back in the shop and see if anything needs to be done here. In addition to emptying out the trucks, one of his responsibilities is inventory; making sure we have what we need. One of Devin’s strengths is he came from working at Shop Rite. So with the exposure to how their aisles are categorized and everything is labeled, I am having him transfer the knowledge here.
Q: What about your paycheck?
Devin: I get paid every week. I’m saving it for a car.
Q: What’s your favorite part about the WBL experience?
Devin: I am not working on the same thing every single day and it’s made a big difference in my school work. I have something to work for at school now, my grades are way up there.
Devin plans on staying in the electrical field after graduation.