Celebrating CAWEE's 50th Anniversary
Bridging School to Career


CAWEE President 1966-1968

Milan Wight

Milan decided to prepare for secondary education after World War II. He got his BA and his secondary teaching credential from UC Berkeley. His real career plan was to teach for 5 years then get a job in personnel work in industry or Boy Schouts of America. It never happened.

Milan spent 40 years in the Mount Diablo Unified School District as a business teacher, counselor, District Coordinator of Work Experience and Career Education, and Principal of the Summer Occupational Center. Distributive Education was offered in Oakland, Los Angeles and points east but not in MDUSD.

In 1968, I was offered to go on a month long trip to Communist countries (Russia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) to observe their vocational programs. The schools were quite thorough in their preparation of students for work. Students completed their training by age 12. Once completed, the students were expected to stay in their trained job. I asked about a course in advertising. The response was, “Oh, you mean propaganda?”

All businesses were limited to one product: shoes, food service. etc.. In the food service program of Russia, they studied from the farm to finished product. For example, they learned to plan an attractive presentation of the food like fish sticks served with two fish sticks crossed. At dinner that night, we had two fish sticks with two of them crossed showing the finished product. In Czechoslovakia, we saw beautiful crystal and castles. 

In Hungary, we listened to their music and liked it. In Germany, we had entry through the entry gate. We went to Leipzig in East Germany where Martin Luther composed the 95 Thesis. I also went into a bookshop and tried to buy a book, but we were closely monitored and I was forced to catch up with my group. In France, secondary students were separated as boys and girls in housing as well as in their studies. They did do much in arts and agriculture. Our students gained an example of Parisian life. We were housed in Madam Pompadore’s home. It was also the place of drinking very strong coffee.

My first attempts at work experience education programming occurred in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. These were under the sponsorship of Distributive Education guidelines. At the same time in the eastern section of the country, Distributive Education was sponsored by the education department. Los Angeles School District and Whittier and one representative called my office and asked if I would consider a program. The meeting was set for Concord, and a discussion was held in 1967. After that, it was decided that the MDUSD would accept the concept of a work experience program. A following meeting was held in SF on March 27 and we anticipated maybe a dozen attendees. To my surprise, there were 57 secondary school representatives who got on board and CAWEE was born.

The first activity was to call a regional meeting in southern California. It’s political structure was designed to include charters in Northern and Southern California. The ultimate design had to be approved by the State Department of Education. Guidelines included planning for the operations and work permits. The organization worked very hard to get regulatory approval which included such things as rules and regulations. We were having to go back to the legislature to get regulations and laws passed.

We proposed in our district to pay attention to regulations and help fix the rules and regulations laws. We had tremendous growth in work experience. We also needed to have proper
supervision. Along with supervision, we needed training plans so that work experience programs had great educational value. For example, we had an automotive program and Iremember a time when one of the Sacramento Representatives asked a student if he wanted to be an auto mechanic. He said he wanted to be a medical doctor, but his parents couldn’t afford it, so he would be working nights as a mechanic to pay for his education. The principal asked if they would work on getting jobs for special education students. I hadn’t been able to get a job for one. The District office had a machine that was a contract reader. He got the job because, for security reasons he was perfect as he could not read.

I am concerned with proposed legislation to raise the minimum wage because these are entry level jobs that kids are able to do.

If you want more information, please give me a call. I am 93 years old and I have been married to my wife, Eloise, for 70 years and I am full of life.

Thank you for your invitation to this event celebrating 50 years of CAWEE. Yippee!