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Thoughts from an Academic and Career Advisor

High school guidance counselors play a crucial role in helping students make choices about their future – whether it involves an apprenticeship, college, or both. CareerWise has the good fortune or partnering with dozens of talented counselors across the state, and we sat down recently with one of them and asked her a few questions about CareerWise and youth apprenticeship more generally.

Rebekah Cornelius is an Academic and Career Advisor and CareerWise Project Manager at Colorado Early College’s Fort Collins High School. She joined a group of other counselors, educators, and CareerWise staff on a trip to Switzerland last year to learn about modern youth apprenticeship.

CareerWise: You and your team have been so supportive of CareerWise and of youth apprenticeships in general. Why have you been so supportive?

Rebekah Cornelius: It all started in Switzerland, being able to see what they do to provide so many options and avenues for students to find a career pathway—that’s when the vision was cast for me to really be a champion for this.
Also, probably because of my own personal background. I was an undecided college student. I changed my major five times in my college years; I ended up with a psychology degree, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do with that. I put myself in the shoes of my students today and that indecision could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars because higher education costs have skyrocketed in the past decade or two.

Also, I know students really value hands-on learning and hands-on experience and I think apprenticeship helps give them a vision of what they could become and keep many options open.
Finally, I saw the pride the young people in Switzerland take in building their own career paths. I want that for my own students.

CareerWise: I know that your school has hired several apprentices. What do you hear from your own apprentices?  
Rebekah Cornelius: I’ve seen one of our apprentices really grow in her confidence and ability to talk to adults. I’ve seen another really grow in being able to juggle lots of priorities. Even in just one or two semesters, I’ve seen so much growth. I had this proud moment recently when one of them (an IT apprentice) was in my office fixing my computer as my colleague, problem solving on her own. I know that there is no way she could have done that a year ago!

CareerWise: What would you say to other counselors who aren’t familiar with this program?  Rebekah Cornelius: I would say that we as counselors need to do a better job of educating ourselves about what jobs are out there and what it takes to get there. We need to get out to the community: partner with workforce centers, visit companies, and see what the opportunities are for our students. For instance, I have been learning a lot about advanced manufacturing and have quickly come to realize that there are many good jobs in this—and that many of them involve high levels of thinking and lots of interesting technology, such as robotics.

Rebekah Cornelius:I have some students here who may not thrive in academically rigorous courses—I still want to find them a rewarding job and career. There is a pathway for everyone; I’m starting to see myself as a “personal matchmaker,” matching students, their interests and abilities, and the ever-changing job market.

CareerWise: Any final thoughts?
Rebekah Cornelius: I think CareerWise Colorado is one of the best programs in our country right now—and I am thrilled to be a part of it. It requires a bit of commitment for students. But it’s worth it!