How on the job learning offers vast opportunity
When the Dean at ASTEC Charter School announced a chance for students to apprentice at Dell Technologies, Corina Mejia turned to her family right away. Mejia is a first-generation Mexican American, and she learned from her family to work hard to realize opportunity. With her family’s encouragement, Mejia applied for the rigorous program. She was accepted just before the start of her senior year of high school.
“My parents gave me the green light to go for it, and the motivation to continue even when things got difficult. Everything I do here, I do to make my family proud,” said Mejia, “They immigrated for a reason, so I know everything I do and every opportunity I get helps my family.”
Dell Technologies has run its apprenticeship program since the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development (OOWD) helped them launch it in 2017. Dell partners with Mejia’s high school to find great candidates for the program. Those competing for the program must maintain a high GPA, have good attendance records, have no disciplinary record, and receive teacher recommendations. Mejia had always been a motivated student with good grades and strong relationships with her teachers. When accepted, Mejia joined a class of only six students in the Dell apprenticeship program.
The program is structured to allow apprentices to attend their regular high school classes in the morning, take IT classes at OSU-OKC in the afternoons and train at Dell in the evenings. The apprenticeship lasts two years, and during her apprenticeship Mejia was able to experience a little of every department at Dell. This experience helped her gain a broad understanding of the technology industry while discovering more about her own interests and talents. “I came into this apprenticeship knowing little to nothing about what I was going to do. We were six high school kids with no experience in IT and we have all learned and grown so much,” says Mejia, “It built my confidence to communicate effectively with many types of people in different positions and solve their IT problems. It has helped me develop good communication skills to explain what’s not working, estimate how long the corrections will take, and follow up afterward to be sure things are working right for the customer.” Today, Mejia works full-time for Dell Technologies while pursuing a bachelor's degree in the IT field. Thanks to her experience at Dell, she knows her future is to continue her career in technology. As she completes her basic college courses, she is rotating jobs within Dell before she chooses a specific major. Since her graduation from the apprentice program, she has worked in customer service answering questions by chat and by phone. After six months in that position, she will rotate to a new department to try a different role. All the while, Mejia still has the opportunity to shadow other staff working in many different parts of the organization.
“A lot of people helped all the apprentices, and I know I can still go to them for support. When we’re shadowing, they take us under their wing,” says Mejia, “I’ve learned a lot from all my supervisors these last few years.”
Joining an apprenticeship as a teen has changed Mejia’s life. She was able to make a living in a good, stable job as a young student. She is on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in a field of work that is essential. She is able to make a highly informed decision about which major to choose because, unlike many other university students, she has had the opportunity to shadow professionals and apply what she’s studying in a classroom. From a high school student nervous to take on this challenge, Mejia has grown into a talented young professional in the field of technology. “If you get an opportunity to do something like this, take it!” Mejia says, “Don’t let a lack of knowledge or experience stop you. I was scared, nervous, anxious, and the first few months were very hard. Those kinds of new experiences and challenges push you, but I know it’s all going to be worth it and I’m so glad I did it. It pushed me to things I didn’t know I could do.”