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Apprenticeship programs in Colorado help grow workforce, give students path to career

November is Colorado Apprenticeship month
Apprenticeships help Colorado students on path to career
Posted at 9:02 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 09:13:44-05

Amid a nationwide labor shortage, many companies are seeing the value of recruiting young.

Apprenticeship programs in Colorado are helping meet labor needs, while offering students a chance to explore careers.

CareerWise Colorado has placed more than 600 apprentices with 179 employers over the last five years.

“It's tough to find good talent right now and youth apprenticeship gives you a way of growing your own talent,” said Meaghan Sullivan, program manager for CareerWise.

One of their newer partners is the City of Denver, which recently expanded a pilot program for apprenticeships. Fourteen apprentices are working in city departments, including economic development, transit, parks and recreation, and the Denver International Airport.

Vanessa Garcia-Quezada was one of the first apprentices the city hired when it started the pilot with CareerWise. For Garcia-Quezada, it was more than just a job.

“I'm a first-generation student, so my family hasn't had jobs like this or opportunities like this,” she said.

She now works on projects in underserved communities as part of Denver’s Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization team.

Fellow apprentice Bryssa Silerio lives in one of the communities they serve, and through her internship she developed a plan for a future career.

“My major is accounting, and I want to open my own accounting firm that will help these underserved communities with bookkeeping and tax preparation,” Silerio said.

Companies like Canvas Credit Union consider apprentices full-fledged team members.

“They take a little more training than your average person with experience,” said Emily Valenta, who works with apprentices at Canvas.

But she said they bring energy and new perspectives to the table.

Dayna Hassan and Joshua Forkell are both high school students, but say their apprenticeships helped them learn about different job opportunities. Hassan wants to pursue finance, while Forkell became interested in marketing.

“Canvas has kind of helped me define my criteria of what makes a good place to work,” Forkell said.

Students in CareerWise work about 16 hours a week at their apprenticeship and also receive academic credits.

Former Denver Public Schools counselor Nicole Jones now helps manage apprentices for the city of Denver. She said the city looked for students who weren’t the typical straight-A student on the college and career track.

“We specifically looked for the student who was lost, maybe they have no idea what they want, maybe they have no idea how they’re going to finish high school,” Jones said.

She said the hope is to give them direction and motivation, whether they pursue college or the workforce after high school graduation.

For Garcia-Quezada, college is part of the plan, but the apprenticeship has been invaluable experience.

“I am so glad that I took this opportunity and I feel like I am confident to go into my next endeavor with the skill sets I’ve gained,” she said.