Transportable Skills Shine Through in Engineering Apprentice

One PLTW student is learning firsthand how the transportable skills developed in PLTW programs can carry him further in the workforce. Ian Smith, a senior at Timber Creek High School in Ft. Worth, Texas, has taken PLTW since eight grade. He began an apprenticeship at Recaro Aircraft Seating in June 2019 and has used more of what he learned from PLTW in his apprenticeship than he anticipated.

“The PLTW classes are the reason I want to be an engineer - exposing me to content and the types of things you can do as an engineer,” he said. “The PLTW courses also did a lot with teaching me different paths to problem solving.”

Now as an apprentice in the prototyping shop, he uses his problem-solving skills to improve 3D printing. Recaro engineers give him prototypes, and he uses splicing software to turn that prototype into a usable item. He also uses problem solving when conducting stress tests on commercial airplane seats to help improve the design.

To be successful in his apprenticeship program, Ian has also called upon his collaboration skills and comfort with asking questions, attributes he believes he developed in his PLTW courses.

“So far in this apprenticeship, asking the people around me has gotten me through,” he said. “I have always done that in school, and this apprenticeship has forced me to ask for help more.”

In addition to the real-world, on-the-job skills he is learning through the apprenticeship, Ian says that this experience has helped him to develop leadership skills. He is Recaro’s first high school apprentice. Students who had completed Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, and at least one additional PLTW course were eligible to apply. He feels honored that he was chosen to interview and ultimately selected for the position, and he feels a sense of responsibility to succeed in this role so that other high school students in the future can have the opportunity.

Ian’s apprenticeship will last just beyond his high school graduation, concluding in August 2020. Upon successful completion, he will receive an Apprenticeship in Engineering certificate.  

Looking forward, Ian aspires to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. The aerospace sector most interests him. He had always wanted to become an astronaut, but lately has been considering service with Mission Aviation Fellowship, a program of airline pilots helping in underdeveloped countries.

“At Recaro, I have come to see firsthand what it means to be an engineer and what type of impact I can have on the world,” Ian said. “While there, I have been able to network with interesting people who all share the same passion for creativity and problem solving that I do. This opportunity of a lifetime has given me the tools I need to excel in college, my career, and the rest of my life.”

Apprenticeship opportunities offer schools and districts another way to extend career and technical education beyond the classroom and empower students to gain real-world industry experience. PLTW welcomes partners to engage in immersive student experiences through apprenticeship programs. To support these efforts, PLTW serves as a resource to help connect and educate partners about the possibilities with these programs, which introduce students to high-demand job opportunities; link employers to PLTW students who have the knowledge and skills to fill their labor needs; and facilitate collaboration among PLTW schools, PLTW students, and business partners. In 2018, PLTW and the U.S. Department of Labor partnered to develop the PLTW National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards. These guidelines provide a comprehensive apprenticeship skills and knowledge framework that schools and industry can customize to meet local apprenticeship needs. To learn more or get started on developing your school or company’s apprenticeship program, complete this form.