The Norristown Hall of Champions Committee will commemorate 40 years of honoring outstanding alumni of Norristown Area High School with a banquet at Presidential Caterers, East Norriton, on Oct. 25.

WEST NORRITON — Norristown Area School District is fully on board with the first-of-its-kind registered apprenticeship program to train K-12 public school teachers to further develop their skills that was recently unveiled by Governor Tom Wolf.

The Apprenticeship to Mastery Program for Public School Teachers (AMP), a two-year non-traditional apprenticeship program for K-12 public school educators, has been approved by the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO).

Sponsored by Choice Careers LLC, the program will provide structured on-the-job training with Norristown Area School District, as well as summer rotations at local businesses, a release noted. Related technical instruction will be provided through accelerated online courses toward a Master of Science degree in Education from Gwynedd Mercy University (GMercyU), online training from Educational Impact, and workshops from Choice Careers LLC.

“The Norristown Area School District is excited to partner with Choice Careers LLC and Gwynedd Mercy University to implement the first of its kind apprenticeship program for teachers,” noted Chris Dormer, Superintendent of Schools, Norristown Area School District. “This innovative apprenticeship program will allow Norristown Area School District to better recruit, attract, hire, and retain high quality instructors. This was a great opportunity to work with Choice Careers and Gwynedd Mercy. It puts something in place to allow us to ultimately take recruitment to another level.  There are less and less people going into teaching,” he added, “and we still have those trends with people graduating with teaching degrees and about half of them leave the career within the first five years. We invest a lot of man hours and dollars to try to ramp people up for the classrooms and we need to make sure we need a long term return on that investment. And the best way to do that is to give (years) into holding onto those teachers. So we saw this opportunity to work with our partners to really look at the (early) years of teaching a little differently and really overload those introductory teachers with support and leverage the expertise of future teachers to veteran teachers to get them to not only want to be part of the profession but stay here in Norristown and be part of our long term plans and solutions.”

Clara Console, CEO/Owner of Choice Careers LLC, noted, “We are very excited to roll out the nation’s first registered apprenticeship program for K-12 public school teachers with the Norristown Area School District and Gwynedd Mercy University as our partners. Education, academia and businesses must work together to better prepare teachers to meet the needs of their diverse classrooms and to solve the growing skills gap.”

Gwynedd Mercy University President, Deanne H. D’Emilio, JD said that the school is “thrilled to be selected as the educational partner for the Registered 'Apprenticeship to Mastery Program for Public School Teachers' (AMP) and help bring this innovative professional development initiative to life. Not only will this program further prepare the future educators of tomorrow, but it will also enable and encourage teachers to have more impactful effects on their students.”

Expanding apprenticeships has long been a priority for Wolf, who launched PAsmart last year to invest in job training and science and technology education. The press release noted that building on that success, the governor’s budget will create opportunities for Pennsylvanians from birth to retirement through the Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program (SWEAP). The initiative expands access to early childhood education, increases investments in schools, and partners with the private sector to expand on the PAsmart initiative.

The Wolf Administration created the ATO in 2016. Since then, the office has registered 141 new program sponsors and 201 new apprenticeship programs or occupations, bringing the total number of registered apprentices to 16,892 statewide.

Apprenticeship programs approved by the ATO provide employer-driven training to create a more productive, highly-skilled workforce for employers and help reduce employee turnover. The program provides job seekers with increased skills, and a nationally recognized credential to support future career advancement and increased wages.

“Through Governor Wolf’s SWEAP proposal and PAsmart initiative, Pennsylvania is creating the nation’s strongest workforce,” said L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak. “Apprenticeships play an important role in training our future and current workforce, and that is why the governor is proposing additional PAsmart funding to further improve access to education and training programs for our students and workers.”

In 2019, Wolf is proposing an additional $10 million for PAsmart to bolster career and technical education for adults as well as job training programs at companies to enhance the skills of Pennsylvania workers.

“I’m proud that Pennsylvania has the first registered apprenticeship program for public school teachers in the country, said Wolf. “The experience that teachers gain will help them connect the dots between their students, education, and growing careers. The apprenticeship will focus on applying technology to show students about growing industries and the skills they’ll need to get a job and thrive.”

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