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Why Youth Apprenticeship?

By Erika Germer, K-12 partnerships manager

CareerWise youth apprenticeships are growing in popularity—not just in Colorado, but also in places like Indiana, Washington, DC and New York.  If you talk to an apprentice, it’s easy to see why.

Many will tell you that they like being treated like an adult and given real responsibilities that matter to the company.  They report a big difference between even the “real world” assignments at school and the work they do as an apprentice.  Some apprentices at Frontier Airlines were helping build a new website for the company; apprentices at an accounting firm in Denver were reconciling accounts for real clients; and apprentices at Intertech Plastics were programming a robot to build products for real customers.  For many, this feels very different than school.

Apprentices will also tell you that they enjoy working with adults and building a professional network of people who can help them launch their career.  A lot of them report that adults are “cooler” than they initially thought and make great colleagues.  

They will also tell you that they love getting paid and getting a jump start on a few free college classes in their field.  They know that if they go to college after an apprenticeship, they will have a much better idea of what they want to study.  But many are also excited by the possibility of being hired by the company right after their apprenticeship and launching their career at a place they know well.

In Switzerland and some parts of Europe, nearly two out of three high school students choose to become a youth apprentice.  In ten years, the same may be true in the United States, and that path is being blazed by Careerwise apprentices in Colorado, New York and in many other places in the country.

This past June, new CareerWise apprentices attended a two-day virtual Bootcamp Basics to prepare them for the workplace. But our training options for students don’t stop there. Employers could also choose to enroll apprentices in Bootcamp Extensions: Business

Essentials or Bootcamp Extensions: LevelUp to provide deeper foundational training.

In Business Essentials, apprentices developed skills to handle a wide variety of tasks and scenarios that are foundational to any role. Key content areas included Microsoft Suite, Google Suite, email proficiency, and professional competencies such as time management, self-advocacy, and conflict resolution. Apprentices gained hands-on experience with challenges they will likely encounter in the workplace through case studies and project challenges based on workplace scenarios.

Over the course of three weeks (for a total of 48 related-instruction hours), apprentices from across the state joined in a virtual classroom to learn from our Training team and from each other – while having some fun along the way.

“An apprenticeship is a way to see into the future,” said Kate Guzman, a senior at Berthoud High School. “It helps you decide if this career is what you want to do for the rest of your life.” As one of Thompson School District’s Future Educator apprentices, Kate will spend half her week in a kindergarten class: “I would like to be the person that helps young minds create memories.”

Business Essentials gave Kate the chance to meet other apprentices from a variety of schools each time they broke off into small groups. “Communication is so important no matter what your job is,” Kate said.

Jessie Christie, a rising junior at Pueblo County High School, is also looking forward to starting as a Future Educator this fall. “I am interested in being a history teacher,” Jessie said. “So this apprenticeship at the middle school will help me prepare for what lies ahead.” Jessie shared that during Business Essentials, the lessons about communication and conflict management were most helpful to her, and although she has experience working with younger kids as a horseback riding instructor, there’s still a little bit of nervousness involved in doing something brand new. 

“Once I get started, I think everything will fall into place,” Jessie said. “I have good time management skills, which is important for someone with a really challenging school schedule plus other activities.” 

Yuliana Loya-Sandoval is a legal assistant apprentice at the Denver firm Polsinelli PLC. “It’s been so amazing to learn something new every day,” she shared. “And being able to work in a professional environment with friendly people is overall the best part.” 

But walking into a busy law office is worlds away from the halls of her alma mater, Westminster High School. “I was really glad that Business Essentials covered topics like using professional language and dressing appropriately,” Yuliana said. “Being able to practice real world scenarios with my peers made me feel more confident trying out problem solving strategies at work. Most of all, I am getting better at the technique of never being afraid to ask for help.”

Troubleshooting was also mentioned as a critical skill by junior coder apprentice Tim Ironwing, even just a couple months into his apprenticeship with CareerWise. “Our business essentials course taught me a really useful tool to help problem solve,” he said. “And not just at the office, but for life in general.” Tim appreciated the chance to connect with students from across the state during the training sessions: “I really liked learning with the other apprentices! Starting an apprenticeship is tough, but knowing I wasn’t alone helped me ease myself into my position.”