Hoptocopter™ Films has a history of mentoring people interested in breaking into the film industry. However, the small video production house is challenged to find individuals with the right technical capabilities and personality fit. Because hiring interns and college graduates has not always proven to be a fruitful endeavor, bringing a high school apprentice on board seemed out of the question. The company’s doubts were lifted when it partnered with CareerWise Colorado and hired 17-year-old Nate, Hoptocopter’s modern youth apprentice.
Seeing One’s Younger Self in Teens
Seth Schaeffer, president at Hoptocopter, has a heart for helping others learn and grow in the film and video production arena. He is inspired by the idea that students can jumpstart a career prior to completing high school, because he sees his younger self in them.
“I was the kid who didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up,” said Schaeffer, adding that he could have benefited from a program that gave him direct industry experience and networking connections before entering college.
Nonetheless, Schaeffer had never considered hiring a high schooler.
“Hiring a high schooler didn’t seem like an option,” he admitted, citing capability, scheduling, and maturity as potential drawbacks. But Schaeffer warmed to the idea when he understood how well structured the CareerWise program is.
A+ for Accountability
With a platform that connects the systems of education and industry, as well as draws on support from the State of Colorado, CareerWise’s modern youth-apprenticeship model provides competency training plans that are crafted in cooperation with business to ensure the skills being developed are immediately applicable to industry. This lends the credibility and reliability Schaeffer feels are necessary for success and ensure meaningful and valuable production. “The student is accountable for the workload. He’s held to the same standard as the rest of our team,” Schaeffer said.
The depth of resources available through CareerWise—including guidance on developing the apprentice program, hiring processes and creating a viable career path—also made apprenticeship attractive to Schaeffer, whose small company wouldn’t have the resources to create such an initiative alone.
Schaeffer found the program’s longevity highly appealing: it allows a relationship to be built over a period of years. By training an apprentice in its preferred methods of doing business, Hoptocopter reaps the rewards of a young person’s skills and productivity now, while developing a pipeline for the company’s future workforce.
This is a departure from intern experiences in the past, which Schaeffer said have been too time-limited to be of much value to the company. “Our college interns were not prepared for the real world and didn’t know what they were doing yet—and once they started to get the hang of things, the internship was over.”
The Right Choice
Feeling no pressure from CareerWise to hire just for the sake of filling the spot, Hoptocopter conducted several rounds of interviews before landing on the right candidate.
Nate fits in with the team in every way and “absolutely” provides a return on Hoptocopter’s investment. Supporting two full-time editors, he takes video editing projects from start to finish. “We trust him to set up our projects, ingest all of the footage and organize our projects so that we can build a story,” said Ashley Bernal, his editorial coworker.
The result is that Nate is producing quality films—outputting two to five videos per month—and handling large portions of work that allows other staff members to focus on other tasks. “I don’t want our team members to be at max capacity all the time. Nate helps us avoid that,” said Schaeffer. And the economics of the arrangement make it operationally feasible: compared to the amount of work Nate gets done, Hoptocopter’s financial commitment to Nate is very manageable.
Ultimately, Schaeffer said, the program makes so much business sense. “Some people see apprenticeship as a gift to the young people. This is not an act of benevolence; it’s not philanthropy. It’s an investment in our workforce and one that has clear value to us.”
Company Profile: Hoptocopter
Industry: Video production company
Staff: 9 full-time employees
Location: Grand Junction, Colo.