Triple Win Apprenticeships build on authentic learning to create success for students and businesses

By Clay Springer

Following the wildly successful partnership between Rapoport Academy and Waco Pedal Tours, a new collaboration emerged to formalize the process of non-traditional apprenticeships and provide the space to reach more students. The Triple Win Apprenticeships pilot program is a collaboration and joint venture between Rapoport Academy Public School, Connally Career Tech High School, and Triple Win Apprenticeships. While earning a stipend, students from both schools are working through a rigorous 24-week internship on Thursday nights to gain hands-on experience in a variety of disciplines including entrepreneurship, fabrication, electronics, sales, and marketing. The internship is a hybrid program of both hands-on shop time and online training and professional learning to earn the OSHA 30 industry certificate for general fabrication, as well as Solidworks for CAD design and blueprinting, CAM programming for plasma CNC tables.

Several businesses and individuals approached the schools about partnering to bring their products and ideas to market including the latest project with Waco Axe Company to build a mobile axe throwing trailer. Triple Win has also partnered with HomeHarvest, an agrotech startup company that recently won the first place $5,000 prize in Extraco Banks Big Idea Challenge. HomeHarvest’s signature product, the GreenPod – a modular, hydroponic growing environment, will move from paper designs to market with the help of Triple Win students.

Two pieces of legislation, Texas House Bill 5 in 2013 and House Bill 3 in 2019, have fundamentally changed the funding and accountability models for Texas students and provided new avenues for our next workforce to move quickly and efficiently through training into career. Under the new state accountability rating system, the state assigns a letter grade to each district. The standardized testing scores are considered at the same rate as student completion of industry-based certificates making them workforce ready. Industry-based certificates include professional certificates like welding CWS 1.1-6, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Solidworks CAD Associate, Drone Pilot Part107, Adobe Products Associate, OSHA30 construction and many more. The district can also earn up to $7,000 per student for students that become College, Career, and Military ready, or CCMR ready, as an Outcomes Bonus from the state in the following fiscal year.

School districts are quickly seeking highly-qualified instructors needed to meet the qualifications required for students to meet the CCMR requirements for accountability grade and funding bonus. This means retraining current teachers and enabling paid time off for teachers to obtain the clinical hours required for licensure through externships.

What is Triple Win?

Triple Win is a startup company owned and operated by teachers and students together. The modern workforce demands a multidisciplinary learner that has deeply experienced the process of learning. No longer will a classroom full of students following a set of instructions to make the same product prepare our workforce for unknown problems with unknown solutions. Students, educators, and employers together need real experiences, real dollars, real successes and real failures to form a team dedicated to learning together and becoming confident problem-solvers. When students work with local businesses to authenticate classroom learning and receive mentorship, high-wage and in-demand careers become an attainable endgame. Triple Win serves as the bridge from education to workforce through training, consulting, and fiscal agency by leveraging local, state, and federal funds earmarked for workforce development.

Triple Win apprentices show up early, stay late, thrive on hard work and ambiguity, and believe that learning how to learn is a lifelong investment. Triple Win is a noun and a verb; it’s a concept, but more than that, it is students, education, and business sticking their hand in the middle of the team huddle and saying, “together we can achieve more.”

Triple Win evolved from a group of high school students and their teacher while working with a local start up business, Waco Pedal Tours.  The team of four students and a teacher were asked to build a new pedal bike from scratch after the company’s bike had failed leaving the business stranded and its owner’s emotionally drained. WPT hired the team from Rapoport Academy Public School as W-4 employees, provided workers’ insurance, an hourly wage to students during class and even rented a shop for the team. After six grueling months of design, fabrication, and testing, the team had produced its first prototype ready for customers. The new bike was bigger, more powerful, and full of custom touches like laser engraved Waco themed pieces, LED lights, air-ride suspension, and many more technical attributes. The owners could not have been more excited; they considered the new bike a masterpiece. Since that time the company has thrived. The new bike project was a major win and has been featured in local and statewide media coverage as a cutting-edge workforce development program. The Waco Pedal Tours owners and students realized, even with the wild success of the product, the process of authentic learning experienced by everyone involved outweighed the success of the new bike. The teacher moved from in front of the class to working alongside students, addressing individual student learning needs and passions. Together, a local startup, students, and a teacher formed a three way mutually beneficial partnership – they formed a Triple Win. Triple Win Apprenticeships formalizes the concept discovered during the pedal bike build into a consulting agency that school districts can partner with to reach more students.

We cannot expect public educators to train for pedagogical expertise and yet still be experts in the trade careers, neither will be executed well for our next generation. Triple Win was formed by students, teachers, and business owners who recognize that the weight can be taken off the shoulders of teachers and administration by working together for workforce training.

Triple Win has four community directives:

  1. Modern workforce development through non-traditional apprentice programming ( Often this programming will happen outside of regular work hours to allow students to earn wages and finish school. Triple Win’s current joint venture takes place on Thursday nights ).
  2. Act as a fiscal agent for student start-up businesses.
  3. Act as a consultant to bridge the communication and skills gap between K12, higher education, and employers by developing and employing highly trained instructors that have extensive knowledge of both industry and education while also holding industry certificates.
  4. Let teachers be teachers.

Triple Win Apprenticeship programs are offered at no cost to each school district beyond the extra funds the school district receives from placing students in the CTE course. A Triple Win instructor is placed on faculty at each partnering district as an adjunct instructor and paid a stipend. Local school districts are thrilled about a program that pays for itself and fulfills the new requirements for state accountability and funding bonuses from workforce ready students. School districts will not be the constraint of scaling the Triple Win model.

Triple Win will continue to cultivate partner businesses to ensure lasting pipelines to career, and publicly celebrate every complete project. Partner business are expected to contribute financially to each student’s experience through providing training, materials, and work space. To scale, Triple Win must prove concept through strategic publicity and well directed marketing strategies to increase awareness.

The program sells itself to educational entities and business, but Triple Win must work closely with families to gain trust and respect to support a clear bridge to career for each student. To better market the program to new families, Triple Win will ensure that appropriate wrap-around services are provided to apprentices for a successful launch into a career.

Clay Springer currently serves as STEAM and Career and Technical Education Director for Rapoport Academy Public School. Clay started his educational career at Rapoport Academy in 2010 as a teaching assistant for Quinn Middle school before becoming a classroom teacher and advocate for STEM and Authentic education. Clay and his wife, Joi, welcomed their first child, Shepherd, on Thanksgiving day 2018. They enjoy spending time on the Brazos River on old boats that Clay boldly claims someday will be as good as new.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email a[email protected]for more information.

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