A McFarland High School student interested in a career in law enforcement will have the opportunity to see the ins and outs of the job next year as the McFarland Village Board approved a work to learn program through the local police department.

McFarland Officer Jason Onken attended the May 27 meeting to explain how the program would operate. He said the student, who must be 17 or 18 years old, would go on ride alongs with officers and learn about the day-to-day operations of the McFarland Police Department.

The youth could potentially spend time at the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, the county dispatch center, Dane County Jail and other specialty law enforcement departments.

Police Chief Craig Sherven said the student would receive much of the same training a police recruit would undergo.

“They would receive a lot of instruction, and we would work our way through the field training manual minus those areas that we can’t do,” he said. “By the time they’re done with this, they’ll really have a leg up, have a pretty good idea if they like the career field or not and a pretty good understanding of what it entails.”

Josh Fassl, who oversees the county’s youth apprenticeship program, said the learn to work program is similar to a youth apprenticeship except the student will not be paid.

However, learn to work will follow along the same format as the other apprenticeship programs – the student would need to devote eight hours a week to the program and will earn school credit if they put in a minimum 450 hours.

Additionally, the student would need to complete a project within the department, similar to Shop With a Cop, Onken said.

The McFarland School Board approved the agreement for the work to learn program with the police department in March.

Village President Brad Czebotar had several questions about safety precautions, namely if an officer had to respond to a call while the student was on a ride along.

Onken said the procedure could be the same as civilian or Police Explorers ride alongs; per department policy non-officers are not allowed to be on scene of a known weapons call. The individual would be dropped off and would need to contact someone to pick them up or they could walk to a nearby location.

Sheven added anyone on a ride along is told to not get out of the police vehicle nor make contact with a vehicle during a traffic stop.

Trustee Jerry Adrian understood the value of the program to the student but inquired what learn to work would provide the village.

“This is potentially a springboard for pulling in future police officers into our police force,” Onken said.

The officer explained the McFarland Police Department would get to see the student train and get to know the individual. The student could become a future candidate for employment.

Fassl noted 85 percent of students in the youth apprenticeship program stay with the employer they are assigned.

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