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Students at Oklahoma City’s Advanced Science and Technology Charter School and OSU-OKC, from left, Corina Mejia, Mayra Viezcas, Brenda Oleveda and Juan Ruiz, are part of the Dell Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Piloting a Win-Win

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Partnership uniting OSU-OKC, public school and Dell provides new path to success

By Sandy Pantlik 

With the help of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, five students from the Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter (ASTEC) public school in Oklahoma City have taken their senior year to a whole new level.

They work in technical support at the Dell Oklahoma City Campus 25 hours a week, earning a salary, contributing to a 401(k) and gaining life-changing experience, all while working toward their high school diplomas and getting college credit hours.

The pilot program originated with the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and merges a partnership between ASTEC and OSU-OKC with Dell’s willingness to integrate the apprenticeship model into its customer support operations. Not only do students complete college credits while finishing high school, but they learn valuable hands-on career skills working for a Fortune 500 technology company.

This is the first youth apprenticeship program in the state, and it’s in an industry that traditionally hasn’t utilized an apprenticeship model.
After progressing through internal training, the students are now officially part of Dell’s tech support, responsible for taking customer service calls and trouble- shooting issues.

Scott Haworth, site director for Dell EMC Oklahoma City, calls the partnership with ASTEC and OSU-OKC extremely valuable, saying he considers the first semester a “huge” success.

“The students are a part of the Dell EMC OKC family,” Haworth says. “Our team members are always available to answer questions and mentor the students. I have personally seen the students develop and strengthen technical skills, interpersonal skills as well as grow their confidence.

“Dell has a passion for STEM and youth learning initiatives so we are extremely proud of the Dell Youth Apprenticeship Program and the five deserving ASTEC students. The program gives Dell the opportunity to train tomorrow’s workforce where they will receive classroom training and on-the-job learning which, in turn, helps create solutions for Dell’s valued customers.”
“I really love helping people solve their problems,” says Corina Megia, an ASTEC student in the program. “I was nervous at first, but I’ve had lots of support from Dell and OSU-OKC.”

Another student, Maya Viezcas, was happy to help a younger customer — a 10-year-old calling about an iPhone issue. Even though it wasn’t related to a Dell product, she was able to help him.

For OSU-OKC President Brad Williams, the work-based learning program epitomizes the college’s mission to be responsive to industry needs while providing critical support to students as they earn a degree that leads to a career.

Juan Ruiz says his experience in the program has changed his future. “I am the first person in my family who has been able to go to college. I am proud of that and the work I am doing at Dell.”

From the perspective of workforce development, programs such as the Dell Registered Apprenticeship are a win-win for the state.

“The OSU-OKC/Dell Youth Apprenticeship Program allows for high school students to not only receive their high school diplomas but gives them the opportunity to obtain college credits toward a degree, get paid to learn applicable skills, and become eligible for future tuition support. This partnership is beneficial to the students as they earn while they learn, and can stack their education toward a degree in a related field. The partnership is beneficial to the business because it can fill critical positions earlier and ensure that its workforce is trained to its specific needs,” says Erin Risley-Baird, executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development.

To expand work-based learning opportunities and increase education and training among Oklahoma’s workforce, the state established Earn and Learn Oklahoma with a goal to increase the number of registered apprenticeships and internships to 20,000 per year by 2020.
“The experience has truly been special for Dell EMC OKC, and we are excited to continue developing these students and the next generation of workers, which is one of Oklahoma’s most precious resources,” Haworth says.

For the five ASTEC seniors, the Dell apprenticeship has already opened doors they never imagined.

“What I’m most proud of is that I am able to go to college and get a head start on my career,” Viezcas says. “It really shows me the sky’s the limit. I can do anything.”

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