LAKE JACKSON — Three local educational forces have joined to bring the first K-12 teacher apprenticeship program of its kind to Texas, one that promises to meet its participants right where they are.
Brazosport ISD, Brazosport College and Inspire Texas of Region 4 jointly are bringing a unique opportunity for aspiring teachers in the area — a paid apprenticeship.
The district will hire 65 apprentices to begin working in the district this fall. Chosen applicants will be employed by the district as they simultaneously work toward their Texas teaching certification, Brazosport ISD Chief Human Resources Manager Kristi Kirshner said.
Apprentices will enter the program at one of four levels based on their stage of education. Dual-credit students mostly are high schoolers who are considered pre-apprentices. Level one is students with fewer than 60 hours of college, level two are those with an associate degree or near completing one, and the top level are those with a bachelor degree, who will be in a classroom full-time.
All but the dual-credit students will be full-time district employees. Levels two and three will function as paraprofessionals while the residents will be akin to student teachers. Dual-credit students will take classes at Brazosport College and participate in the Inspire Texas teacher certification curriculum.
Since apprentices will be paid while taking classes and receiving on-the-job training, it will reduce the financial barriers that might prevent someone from pursuing a career in education, Kirschner said.
After announcing the partnership in March, the district opened an application period that ended Monday. Candidate interviews will start next week and offers will be finalized before Aug. 23, which is the last day to enroll at Brazosport College for the fall semester. Chosen apprentices will start with the district Aug. 29.
“We’ve got three primary functions in the partnership,” Brazosport College Vincent Solis said. “The first is to provide the classes, the high-quality instruction, the educational program that leads to the second part of it, which is creating teachers. It’s really providing a great educational experience. The second part is that pipeline to creating teachers each year and then the third part of that whole bit of the partnership is working with all of our partners to try to find partnership dollars. What I mean by that is looking at ways of how we can provide resources to the students that can help underwrite their tuition and fees for the program.”
Although the concept of paid internships is not new to Brazosport ISD, the apprenticeship program is designed to provide mentorship, the ability to earn while they learn, on-the-job training and tuition support while earning a teacher certification.
Inspire Texas will provide the curriculum for teacher certification that yields a powerful workforce of skilled teachers, said Rene Ruiz, director of Educator Preparation Solutions at the Region 4 Education Service Center.
“By having the highly qualified, well-prepared teacher, we will have, I think, children who will be well-grounded, well-prepared, well-educated and will get access to those opportunities that our area offers,” Ruiz said. “So I don’t see why we cannot have that truly, very diverse youngest workforce. If we work together in what we’re doing right here.”
The partnership will be beneficial for all involved, Solis said.
“I think that the best thing that comes out of this kind of partnership is we get really great graduates that are from our community that come through these programs,” Solis said. “...We get a bunch of great students. It helps with our enrollment. It helps with our completions. It helps with a lot of different areas because the students that go into teaching programs typically do well academically so it’s a win-win for us in terms of the kinds of students that we attract. But more importantly, we get to provide teachers to the community.”
Brazosport ISD won’t say how much it will pay the apprentices, but that apprentices will earn a salary is an important part of the program, Kirschner said.
“The whole idea is that you earn as you learn. And so once you finish with on-ramp, two, you would promote to on-ramp three, but you also promote to a level two apprentice which is also an increase in pay,” Kirschner said. “As individuals up skills and obtain new skills, that they progress and receive pay increases at the end of the program.”
TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY
About 100 people attended an information session Thursday at Brazosport College and more than 200 expressed interest at the Brazosport ISD website. The district plans to bring on 65 apprentices this year, but hopes to increase that number as the program progresses and more funding is acquired, Kirshner said.
“The whole the goal of this program is to have an apprentice one, earn while they learn and have a no-cost and or low-cost tuition,” she said. “The beautiful part of apprenticeships is that because we only have 65 slots, that doesn’t mean that interested parties are completely turned away. The Department of Labor has established what’s called pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, and so we will be engaging in that space as well so we can provide support to those individuals who are maybe earlier in their college journey or who maybe can’t take as many classes at one time.”
The apprenticeship program also serves as an opportunity for those already employed by Brazosport ISD.
“I’m a current aide here at BISD,” information session attendee Regan Sparrow said. “I’m actually also enrolled for this at college. So it’s kind of the direction I’m already going. It’s the first program like this in Texas, which is really exciting to even have a prospect of being a part of.”
Brazosport ISD graduate Dylan Goana is excited about the opportunity this program brings to the area, and he’s already submitted his application, he said at Thursday’s information session.
“I think it’s a very good program,” he said. “I feel like it’s sort of official because I feel some people who want to get into the learning industry and stuff that kind of step back because I feel like it’s a challenging endeavor and stuff like that for them to get into and I feel like this is very, easy.”
To apply for the apprenticeship, visit Brazosport ISD’s employment page and apply for the apprentice position.