High School Apprenticeship Program

The new group of apprentices will begin on Monday, July 6. The application process will continue this fall. The Museum will be seeking one student from the class of 2017 and 3 students from the class of 2018 to begin in late September. Please contact Brian Witkowski with any questions.

2015-16 Application Form and Program Summary

The New Bedford Whaling Museum Apprenticeship Program offers an opportunity to high school students who excel academically and express interest in gaining work and college readiness experience while earning a competitive wage (this is a paid position). The Apprenticeship program uses museum resources as well as those of regional academic and scientific institutions to increase the knowledge base and practical experiences of high school students in New Bedford while encouraging them to continue their studies upon entering college.




The Apprentice Program of the New Bedford Whaling Museum is open to New Bedford residents in grades 10-12 whose families qualify as low-income.  The thematic connection linking all aspects of this program is the continuing story of the growth and significance of New Bedford as shaped by its relationship with the ocean and the harvests made on it.

Through this program, high school students are challenged to understand first, the history of the whale fishery, its historical context, the people who were at the heart of the industry, the evolution of New Bedford and the region and its relationship with the ocean, oceanography, the biology of whales, the impact on world commerce, the impact on the environment and the economics of whaling. The Program addresses the questions: How? When? Why? By Whom? With what consequences?

Summer 2013 apprentices in our new Beetle whaleboat decorated for the Capre Verdean Independence parade

Summer 2013 apprentices in our new Beetle whaleboat, decorated for the Cape Verdean Independence parade.

The Apprentices are introduced to the challenges of interpreting the story of whaling. Through interaction with the staff of the country’s leading whaling museum, students are given insight into the day to day operations of a museum: curatorial, marketing, educational programs, community events, preservation, interpretation, research and how these services make the history of the whale fishery accessible to the public. They learn about the various cultures and communities connected by the world’s first global economy.

Also, the Apprentices are immersed in the challenges of modern day commercial fishing. Through an introduction to marine biology, oceanography, and the dynamics of the fishing industry, the Apprentices are encouraged to draw on their understanding of the past to inform their concept of the future of ocean harvests:  how they should be managed and the impact of mismanagement on the planet.  

Apprentices will meet and learn from a variety of experts, participate in hands-on projects and potentially serve as assistants for on-going monitoring programs coordinated by Museum partners. Just as importantly, students will also develop organizing, problem solving and team-building skills. They will also be encouraged to think creatively, develop presentation, storytelling and public interaction skills, and learn how to think on their feet in front of an audience. Opportunities include reading at the Moby-Dick Marathon, going on whale watches, visiting Mystic Aquarium and the Museum of Science in Boston, and exploring and clearing trails at Cuttyhunk Island and Allens Pond. 

Apprentices learn about American Alligators at Mystic Aquarium
An apprentice feeds stingrays at Mystic Aquarium

The first year of the program consists of learning the history of the region and the biology of cetaceans as well as development of personal and career skills. Students participate in a 7-week Career Success course and 5-week Personal Finance course, both offered by Junior Achievement. Students visit local college campuses, receive help with MCAS preparation (sophomores) and SAT preparation (juniors), hone their public speaking skills, and collaborate on projects for a variety of events. Their second year, Apprentices engage in onsite internships with a specific department to further develop career skills and cultivate a better understanding of how a museum functions. The Apprentices' final year consists primarily of offsite internships related to their prospective fields of study. If a student is interested in journalism, the Museum will seek to place that student with a local partner such as the Standard-Times. If a student is interested in biology or ecology, then they may be placed at Buttonwood Park Zoo. This enables the student to gain real-world experience while networking, both of which will help secure future occupation. During their junior and senior years, Apprentices will also receive aid in visiting and applying to colleges, completing FAFSA and other financial aid forms, and general guidance through the potentially complicated process of preparing for post-secondary education. Tutoring is available to all Apprentices as needed to help achieve the highest possible scores in school.

Students will be encouraged to write articles about their apprenticeship for their school newspaper, and will contribute to their own Museum blog site. Their writings will also be considered for inclusion into The Bulletin from Johnny Cake Hill, the Museum’s journal for its membership. Apprentices will be expected to create a personal journal that will allow them the opportunity to track their learning over the course of the program and reflect on their experiences as they happen. Ultimately, students will exit the program as ocean literate citizens, stewards of these resources, fully cognizant of how ‘the ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.’

The program is year-round, beginning with the students' sophomore year and continuing through high school graduation. Interviews will be held in May annually. Applications are available to all New Bedford residents attending high school in good academic standing who qualify financially for the program. The program runs 10:00am – 4:00pm Monday-Thursday in July and August, with occasional evening and weekend events. Following a short break, the program resumes after school from 3:15-5:00pm Tuesday-Friday through June. This program is a commitment through high school graduation.


Application Process and Period of Work

Application forms are available below (see Application Form), at the Museum's front desk or at your school. Completed forms and a copy of your most recent report card can be submitted to: Brian Witkowski, Director of Apprentices and Interns, New Bedford Whaling Museum or to the Dean of Students at New Bedford High School, the Co-op Coordinator at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, or the College and Career Advisor at New Bedford Global Learning Charter School. Potential candidates will be invited to the Museum for an interview. The next round of applications will be collected in September 2016 for the final 4 slots this year (classes of 2017 and 2018), and in April and May of 2016 for students in the class of 2019.

Upon acceptance into the program, each student and parent/legal guardian will sign a Letter of Commitment for that academic year and a document promising to apply to college in the future. The Director of Apprentices & Interns will also sign the Letter of Commitment and provide a copy to the Apprentice. Apprentices under the age of 18 will also need to submit a signed Work Permit.

Eligibility: Students must be New Bedford residents in good academic standing whose families qualify as low-income to be eligible for the program. As part of the application process, Apprentices will submit a signed Income Verification Form, as required by our funders. 

Application Form (.doc) and Program Summary (PDF) can be downloaded here. 


Read the September 12th, 2013 Press Release here:  New Bedford Whaling Museum Apprentice Program to receive $128,000 federal grant

logo for Institute of Museum and Library Services


Last Modified: June 26, 2015
level: p2
node_depth: 3