Over the past five years, local partners – Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle County Schools, YouthPower365, Colorado Mountain College, and the Colorado Workforce Center – have worked to simultaneously create unique career paths for students and pipeline companies from workforce.
Each year, local success and implementation of programs such as CareerWise Modern Apprenticeships, Eagle County School District’s CareerX Career and Employment Readiness Program, as well as job shadowing, mentorship and internship have increased, even bringing some notoriety to Eagle County.
“When it started five years ago it was just me trying to do all of this. I had partners but I was trying to do everything and now there are so many community partners that provide a richer experience to these students,” said Erik Williams, director of community development for the Vail Valley Partnership.
“Now I probably get two phone calls a week from other communities who know we’re doing this, asking me how to create a learning program, which I love. And that is also part of the responsibility. CareerWise chose us as the first rural community to do this, and the fact that we got it and they worked so well with us; I think it’s my responsibility to keep sharing it with as many people as possible.
Each year, the five main local partners strive to match students and companies, from the end of the summer with the recruitment of companies wishing to expand their labor pool.
This year, recruiting kicks off Thursday, August 25 with an annual luncheon hosted by the Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools. The goal of the luncheon is for companies to “learn about the labor pipelines that exist in this community,” Williams said.
While past lunches have focused primarily on the CareerWise learning program, this year’s luncheon will feature all the opportunities these partners have to offer. This includes three main areas, Williams said: job shadowing, internships and the apprenticeship program.
“We used to sell learning really hard when we were trying to build it, but now it’s growing so organically and so well that we’re just trying to make sure everyone knows what offers are available and to let them enjoy it,” Williams said.
Representatives from the Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle County Schools, YouthPower365, Colorado Mountain College and the Colorado Workforce Center will all present at the luncheon about their involvement and contributions to local programs. This will provide businesses with the opportunity to connect with these representatives and see what might suit their labor needs.
In general, Williams proposed that internships can be more exploratory for companies – offering insight into how a young employee can benefit from a workplace – whereas an apprenticeship is more about training and training an employee. which could become a career in your company.
However, all of these programs are meant to fill “the need of the valley”, he said.
“I want companies to see this as a hiring strategy moving forward,” Williams said. “One of the things that excites me is that some of our larger companies are seeing this as a future hiring strategy; that’s my goal: that this is just one of the pipelines they use to access workers.
And in terms of who these programs might be suitable for, “they’re really open to any company that wants to train a young person and is looking for that kind of energy,” Williams said.
“I would say the barrier to entry is – for companies right now – they have time to train something and this idea that it’s going to take longer to train a young person,” he said. added. “It takes longer to train a young person than adults who have worked in different jobs, but there are also so many supports we offer young people: mindfulness studies and financial studies and quarterly meetings, trainings and professional development. We do so much to keep apprentices active and part of that.
The schedule for these programs is already underway, with corporate recruitment starting now and continuing through the end of the year. This process primarily includes determining the right person as well as obtaining job descriptions from companies wishing to participate.
Then, in January, begins the process of recruiting students – who for the apprenticeship program are high school juniors – and preparing them to apply for the positions. YouthPower365 does much of this training, including resume building, mock interviews and more. From there, students are matched with companies and, if they are suitable for an apprenticeship, they begin their two-year program in the summer.
These programs have seen immense year-over-year growth as they remove the stigma around different career pipelines for students and businesses see the return on student investment. Even during COVID-19, Williams said Eagle County was one of the only CareerWise programs to keep apprentices seated. And since then, it has only grown.
“After COVID, it’s like the hose is bent and we’ve finally got it back and companies are saying, ‘I want it,'” he said. “It’s the perfect storm of everything working at the same time – it’s been around in this valley long enough that people know it’s a viable option. And, within the student population; it shows that it’s It’s as cool as college and just as lucrative, which is hard to do, break that stigma, but I really think we’re doing a good job of it.
As proof, last year the CareerWise program welcomed 17 new businesses and 20 new apprentices to Eagle County. With this year’s luncheon, Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools are only looking to add momentum to the programs.
“Everyone wants to talk about hiring young people,” Williams said.
Journalist Ali Longwell can be reached at [email protected]