My name is Davina Boykin, and I am a senior at IDEAS Academy. I am a QA Youth Apprentice at Rockline Industries. I first learned about the Youth Apprenticeship program from my friend, Victoria Hoppe, who was, at the time, a STEM Youth Apprentice at Kohler Company. She was working on advanced CAD (computer-aided design) drawings that were then being used by the Kohler Engineers. The more she spoke about her job, the more interested I became. So, intrigued as I was, I attended one of the information nights at LTC, and the information I received there only increased my motivation to apply. By participating in the program, you get real-world job experience, high school and college credit, and you even get paid for it. Not to mention, you also make valuable connections in the working world. All of this, and more, convinced me that I wanted to be a Youth Apprentice. And so, I applied.
It took a couple months, as they had a lot of applications to go through, but I finally got the call I was waiting for. I had an interview! It was for Quality Assurance, and not STEM, like I had originally hoped, but I was excited nonetheless. I went in for my interview in early June, and got a call a few days later, saying that I had been given the position. I was so excited; I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. After the Youth Apprenticeship Orientation Night, I was all set to begin work at Rockline in early July.
The man who interviewed me, Dave Wiher, ended up being my mentor at Rockline. He oversees my work, makes sure I have enough to do, and checks in on my progress. However, on a daily basis, I work more closely with Michael Xiong and Harold Burke as they have fewer responsibilities than Dave does, and so have more time to spend with me. Michael is a QA Supervisor and Harold is the Sanitation Coordinator. I have worked on projects for both. Michael has had me do several document revisions, going in and changing forms and procedures so that they are less redundant and easier to follow. He has also had me create process flowcharts of the sampling requirements for all of the wet wipe products at Rockline, which was quite fun, as I got to work with a few of the Quality Engineers to create those. I have conducted audits of the production floor with Harold, which was a bit frightening at first, I will admit, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with it since. Dave has had me work in the Lab for a little bit, inspecting incoming materials and making sure that they are fit to be used in production. Recently, I have also been doing a bit of job shadowing, in an effort to get a feel for the work that other departments do. I have learned about Purchasing, Scheduling, Logistics, Inventory Management, and even Customer Service. Each experience was unique, and I definitely learned a lot.
I have been learning near constantly since I first began in July. The Quality department has a hand and a role in everything that goes on at Rockline, and so it is always busy. Before working at Rockline, I had no idea how much time and effort goes into making everyday products like wet wipes and coffee filters. I didn’t know about tensile strength or lot codes or Good Manufacturing Practices. Every day, I learn something new, and not all the knowledge I’ve gained has been strictly academic. By being exposed to a professional office, I have cultivated skills that I was lacking in before, and polished abilities that I was already proficient in. My interpersonal skills alone have increased in leaps and bounds. I am no longer afraid to walk up to a perfect stranger and ask for feedback on something I’ve created. I have also adopted a more professional attitude, especially when interacting with others. The expectations are a lot higher when you are dealing with professionals versus teenagers, particularly in regards to communication. My e-mails now are drastically different from those I used to write. My grammar and enunciation when speaking has also seen improvement. These lessons are perhaps even more valuable than the academic knowledge I’ve gained, as I will be able to take them with me as I move forward in life, no matter where I go or what I do.
All in all, the Youth Apprenticeship Program is truly wonderful. I have gained so much valuable knowledge, developed many useful skills, and I am doing substantive work. I wholeheartedly recommend the program to everyone I talk to about it. There are so many benefits I can hardly even list them all. You get to try out a job before going to college and getting a degree, and even if you don’t end up going into that original field, the knowledge and skills you gain will be with you forever. Not to mention, it looks great on résumés and college applications. It doesn’t cost you anything except for your time, and in my opinion, the return is well worth the investment.
For more information on the Youth Apprenticeship Program through LTC, Click Here
For more information on the Wisconsin-wide Youth Apprenticeship Program, Click Here