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District 214 celebrates inaugural Youth Apprenticeship week

Published May 20, 2024

District 214 is all about helping students discover their future. Emily Sohn epitomizes the realization of this mission. The John Hersey High School senior found her calling through a manufacturing youth apprenticeship.

Like many students, Sohn initially had no idea what she was going to do after high school. “All I knew was that I didn’t want to go to college,” she said. In school, she took Project Lead the Way and manufacturing classes which sparked her interest in the field. Then last summer, she landed an apprenticeship with DEMGY, a plastic injection molder manufacturer in Elk Grove Village.

During her apprenticeship, Sohn explored all aspects of the operation of the business including machine operation, assembly, quality control, administrative jobs and more. From there, she was able to choose her specialty and picked up certifications along the way.

“I chose to focus on machine operation/maintenance/automation. I received quite a few certifications during my time in the program. My favorite is my Forklift Operator Certification,” she said.

In addition to on-the-job training, Sohn gained valuable life skills. “My organization and scheduling have significantly improved, as well as my problem-solving skills. I have learned how to wisely manage my time, money, and social life. This experience has helped my adjustment from high school into the working world.”

Sohn has been hired to work full-time at DEMGY after she graduates. Her inspirational story led her to be a featured speaker at the Urban Institute’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit on May 7 in Washington, D.C.

“I felt honored and thrilled to speak at an event in Washington, D.C. Like, what other high school student gets a personal invite to speak in our nation's capital,” said Sohn.

The summit aligned with the U.S. Department of Labor’s inaugural Youth Apprenticeship Week on May 5-11 to highlight the value of work-based learning. District 214 celebrated the week with a nationally broadcasted webinar for educators wanting to learn more about sponsoring youth apprentices, followed by a reception to recognize 44 District 214 apprentices who completed their year-long experience.

“I found my future through the District 214 Apprenticeship program. It’s given me a clearly defined career pathway with room for financial growth and opportunity. I know what I want to do and I know exactly how to get there,” said Sohn.

District 214 began the Apprenticeship program in 2018 and is currently matching prospective apprentices with employers for the 2024-25 school year. The District has had over 110 high school students participate in the program in a wide variety of occupations.

The District 214 Apprenticeship program has been sponsored through several grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Most recently the District was awarded funding through the Job Training and Economic Development (JTED) grant program. Other financial support and policy guidance for the District Apprenticeship Program and College and Career Pathways have been provided by Urban Institute, Partnership for Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), JFF, Education Strategy Group, and Ed Systems Center at Northern Illinois University.