Photos by Sarah Dobson, Reservation Sales
"It gives room for great experience, even though we aren't in a big city," said Madison Lind.
In the small town of Chisholm, Minnesota, Delta's Iron Range Reservation Sales & Customer Care Customer Engagement Center (IRC) created the IRC High School Apprenticeship Program – the first of its kind across Delta. Launched in July 2021, the program aims to give local high school students a career with Delta Reservation Sales & Customer Care upon graduating.
Reservation Sales & Customer Care Brand Advisor Scott Engman was the mastermind behind the program. His wife is a high school principal in the area and they noticed an "untapped resource" that could benefit Delta: high schoolers eager to gain professional experience and make money.
"The area that we live in doesn't have a lot of opportunities necessarily, aside from the mining industry," Scott said.
Scott says their rural community battles to keep local talent – most students leave for college or move to a big city – but this program opens a new door.
"It's giving those kids an opportunity to look at something outside of their norm. We're able to give them a viable plan," Scott said.
Scott took his idea to the IRC Customer Engagement Center leaders, and it blossomed from there.
At the start of the apprenticeship, the first class of high schoolers walked into a room of strangers. But those bonds have since developed.
Currently there are five students working as apprentices: Taylor Vajdl, Matayah Porter, Madison Lind, Wilbur Thompson and Osten Kruchowski. Three students will finish their apprenticeship in June, and the other two in September – the program offers a 6-month or 12-month option.
"This is a job that actually leads somewhere. It's a real-world job to build skills that other places don't offer," said Madison. "And I've made new friends. We [apprentices] go bowling together and connect outside of work."
Some of the apprentices have family ties to Delta, like Madison, whose grandmother Nettie has been with Delta for 25 years.
"When I first heard about the apprenticeship program that the IRC was offering, I was intrigued," Nettie said. "I knew Madison would fit into the Delta family well and her future would be limitless. I am thankful that we are giving our community and families this opportunity."
Scott and other Res & Care employees have seen the personal and professional skills of the apprentices grow as they continue to learn Delta's business and brand values.
For Matayah, who describes herself as very shy, she's grateful to kickstart her career in Res & Care.
"It has helped me a lot with stepping out of my comfort zone. I've gained amazing communication skills," Matayah said.
She has dreams of building a long-term career at Delta.
"It's a big family here. The people are so kind and they're always here to help. I can't wait to become a full-time employee," Matayah said.
According to Sonya Canter, IRC Customer Engagement Center Manager, the program has been very successful for both the apprentices and Delta. It not only provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for local teens, but it also supports Delta's overall hiring strategy to support anticipated summer travel demand with additional staffing in Res & Care.
Initial training takes place during the summer and is full-time for 10 weeks. After training is finished, apprentices work a minimum of eight hours per week. The apprentice decides when to schedule and complete their weekly hours, allowing them the flexibility they need to be successful both in school and at Delta. Students must be at least 17 by the start of the program, going into 12th grade and on track to graduate. The program partners with local schools.
"They have a global opportunity here with us locally. And that's the message that we're bringing to the community – that we can keep our people here, and we can give them the world at the same time," said Sonya.