Vail Area Businesses Looking To Hire High School Students As Part Of Apprenticeship Program

Representatives from 50 local businesses attend the Careerwise Apprenticeship lunch on Tuesday.
Carolyn Paletta / Vail Daily

The traditional career path to skilled employment has long required a college degree, but with soaring tuition fees and companies seeking increasingly specialized skills, students and employers alike need a alternative system.

This is where the modern Careerwise learning program comes in. Careerwise is a Colorado nonprofit organization that works with businesses and school systems to create learning programs for high school students. The new model offers high school students the possibility of applying for a two-year apprenticeship in a local company which begins their final year with a mixed work-study program. After graduation, the student then works as a full-time employee in the company to complete their apprenticeship, while having the option of taking additional courses and certification programs at the community college to advance their career. .

First rural apprenticeship program in the state

The Careerwise learning model was originally designed for urban communities, but in 2018 Eagle County became the first rural community in the state to implement the system. Under the leadership of the Vail Valley Partnership, attendance has grown from five apprentices at four employers in its first year to 11 apprentices with 10 employers in 2021. Strong attendance from over 50 interested companies at the Careerwise Apprenticeship lunch on Tuesday reports the potential for significant growth in the program this coming year.

The list of employers for the 2022 recruiting season will be solidified in December and student recruitment will begin in January. Throughout the spring, students will go through an interview process that places them in a company that matches their strengths and interests, and they will begin their two-year apprenticeship in June 2022.

Christy Beidl is the Client Success Manager for Careerwise in Eagle County, and it’s her job to help match companies with young talent available in the Valley. Beidl worked as a high school and college science teacher for 15 years, and she saw with her own eyes that the traditional school path is not for everyone and that a four-year college degree is not. necessary for many career paths.

Colorado Mountain College at Edwards is hosting the Learning Luncheon, highlighting its partnership with the program.
Lauren Mendez / Courtesy Photo

“We’re trying to make the apprenticeship certification have as much, if not more, than this college degree,” Beidl said. “Think about it – you have a student who spends $ 100,000 to $ 200,000 in college, sits in a classroom, does a great job, and gets A’s, all of that good stuff. Then you have another student who goes through the two-year apprenticeship program, learning real skills: knows how to send emails, knows how to organize a business meeting, knows how to deal with employees – the college student knows- there how to do this? As a business, when you hire, which one are you going to want to hire: the kid who sat in a classroom or the kid who actually took part in the action and learned firsthand what they were doing. take to run a business and do the job they’re supposed to do?

Students not only receive on-the-job training as part of the apprenticeship program, but they are also paid for their work. Although payment rates vary from company to company, the average student earns around $ 40,000 upon completion of their apprenticeship.

“The area we are focusing on now is recruiting students, changing the mindset around learning and showing them what an amazing opportunity it is,” Beidl said. “We come from a generation where you’re so focused on that college degree – that yes, some professions you can’t get without that college degree – but an apprenticeship is just as valuable in those professions that you don’t need to. four years university degree for.

Erik Williams, Director of Community Development at Vail Valley Partnership, and Christy Beidl, Manager of Customer Success at Careerwise, led the learning lunch and facilitated the learning program.
Carolyn Paletta

Real world experience

Angel Munoz is the Executive Chef of the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon, and last year he hired his first high school apprentice as part of the Careerwise program.

“She was phenomenal,” Munoz said. “She wants to understand the whole operation better, because she told me that she wants to open her own restaurant one day.”

During her three-month apprenticeship at the Westin, the student learned the inner workings of a functional kitchen and directly contributes to the restaurant’s success.

“We started by helping her learn the basics of cooking, introducing her to the main kitchen space, what we store and how we store it,” Munoz said. “Now that she’s already learned, she’s helping us prepare the food, set the canapes and set up the main dishes for the banquets. Something that I really love about this program, and something that she has given us, is the awareness of ourselves as teachers and mentors to her. It’s like, let me teach you how to do it right and hone the skills and then we decide something else. She brought this awareness of being a mentor and a teacher to someone, not just the boss. “

Like many local businesses, Munoz staff were seriously affected during the pandemic and the apprenticeship program helped them recruit talent already present in the valley. On Tuesday, Munoz was in the audience for lunch, learning how to add more apprentices to his staff next year.

“The apprenticeship program has really helped us understand that there are people in the valley who want to stay here, who want to learn and who want to work here,” Munoz said. “Most of the staff we bring in from other states and other countries, so when we don’t have (J-1 visas) coming, like what happened last year, I wish I could have more people from the apprenticeship program working with us. Now we start to go back to the J-1 program and the H-2B visas, but at the same time we have the apprenticeship program that is going to help us complete any the team.

Apprentices in all sectors

Participating employers cover a wide range of industries, including hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, finance, education and more, and the opportunities are increasing every year. The program is designed to be mutually beneficial for students and employers, who can train their apprentices from scratch to develop the specialized skills of their particular business.

The Careerwise Apprenticeship Program aims to offer positions in a wide variety of fields that will help students start careers in the industry that interests them.
Vail Valley Partnership Website / Courtesy Photo

Beidl made it clear that the apprenticeship certificate does not exist in opposition to a university degree and that it can in fact be used as a powerful adjunct to pursuing a more advanced course of study. She spoke of an example where a student apprenticed at a construction company and after completing his apprenticeship received a full college scholarship to earn a degree in architecture.

“You get all the experience that will give you that basis for deciding, ‘OK, where do I go next,’” Beidl said. “So if you decide to go to college, that’s all the better a decision for you, or when you decide not to go to college and take this full-time job after your apprenticeship.” , you know it’s a decision that makes sense to you.

Companies wishing to participate in the apprenticeship program are invited to contact Beidl at A full recording of the lunch presentation will be available on the CareerWise Eagle County website.

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