Milton High School 2021 graduates Jacob Blaser and Vanessa Barrios were celebrated at an apprenticeship signing event held recently at Milton High School.

Frito-Lay in Beloit started a youth apprenticeship program in October 2020. Blaser was one of three youth apprentices. Others were students from Beloit Memorial High School and Beloit-Turner High School.

The program is designed for students interested in a hands-on career path. Students are paid while learning. Job rotations include food safety quality technician, processing operator, packaging machine operator, preventative maintenance technician and industrial maintenance technician.

After Blaser completes a registered apprenticeship with Frito-Lay and his education at Blackhawk Technical College (paid for by Frito-Lay), he said he hopes to work full-time for Frito-Lay.

“I like the people, I actually like the job a lot, it’s good pay, good benefits,” he said.

At the apprenticeship signing, he received multiple bags of snacks. His favorite is Flam’in’ Hot Cheetos.

Barrios has been hired by Common Links Construction of Brookfield.

She will become a member of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Barrios, who is interested in carpentry work and drywall, learned about the pre-apprenticeship during a class presentation.

“I like working, being active, I don’t want to be still,” she said, adding she wouldn’t want to sit at a desk.

“We are seeing more young women come into the trades,” North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters Business Representative Aaron Zimmerman said. “We’re encouraging it more and we’re also educating the schools.”

Although Barrios was already motivated to start working, Zimmerman presented her with a Milwaukee rolling tool box for further inspiration.

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards Director Joshua Johnson along with representatives of Frito-Lay and Blackhawk Technical College also were at Milton High School May 24.

Johnson addressed Blaser and Barrios: “When you make a choice in high school on where you want to go and you decide that you want to go into the workforce, that’s not an either or – and it’s not a less than. It’s a plan that I have for now but my plans can change later on.”

People may think, “If I don’t go to college, I’m a failure,” said Johnson, noting he hears it a lot across the state.

“The idea is not where you want to be at age 18,” he said. “It’s about where you want to be eventually. And sometimes to get there, apprenticeship is the way to go.”

Apprenticeship isn’t just construction and manufacturing, he said there are many other sectors.

“At the age of 18, you have an idea, you have a dream,” he said, “but as you continue to grow in age, reality starts to set in of where you need to go and what you need to do.

“An apprenticeship is preparing for the rest of your life.”

And, he said it’s something to fall back on if plans change. In fact, Johnson said he carries his journey workers card in his wallet, though he said he doesn’t plan to use it.

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