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Colorado launches Youth Apprenticeship Program

CareerWise Colorado, a statewide apprenticeship program, and CareerConnect, a Denver Public Schools program, are getting a huge boost: $9.5 million in new support from two leading philanthropies.

The contributions, from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, will allow the state to follow a Swiss model in which high school students apprentice in their chosen fields while enrolled in school.

Students in their last two years of high school will be eligible to participate in CareerWise Colorado beginning in the fall of 2017. The program will begin with 250 apprentices and grow to serve about 20,000 students, or 10 percent of eligible high school students in the state, within 10 years.

“Colorado has an estimated 25,000 weekly job vacancies in high-growth industries that go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers, costing the state over $300 million in lost GDP,” said Noel Ginsburg, chairman and CEO of Intertech Plastics.

“The apprenticeship model will provide greater choice and opportunity for students in fulfilling their future career goals, while at the same time addressing the critical skills gap in business and industry, enabling them to better compete in the global economy,” Ginsburg added.

Ginsburg chairs the Business Experiential-Learning (BEL) Commission established by Gov. John Hickenlooper to work with the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

Hickenlooper said the program builds on much of the work that’s already been done in DPS’s CareerConnect program.

“The key is you’re doing the same work in trying to separate which skills you need for these industries, and t hat’s a lot of work. But once you’ve done that, you’ve done it for [all] the communities. We’re trying to leverage the investments we’ve already made,” he said.

Students spend half their school time in the classroom and the other half on-site with employers. The work they put in at the employers, as well as their classroom time, will both count towards college credit, especially for trade certifications.

“This allows young people to get a taste for working,” Hickenlooper said. “It allows them to see the kids they need while they’re still in school. They begin to get a sense of responsibility and ownership around their own preparation in life.”

JPMorgan committed $4 million to CareerConnect, while Bloomberg Philanthropies will commit an additional $5.5 million to CareerWise. Other financial commitments have come from the Daniels Fund, the Markle Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation — bringing the total to $11 million.

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