LinkedIn partners with Colorado to promote apprenticeships

Apprenticeships open doors for workers looking to advance to a more sustainable career path while still earning an income.

In keeping with LinkedIn's vision of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, we’re exploring how to make apprenticeships in the United States discoverable and, ultimately, targeted through data and technology.

As we've worked with job seekers in Colorado and Arizona, we've heard how hard it is to take time away from work (and income) to get the training needed to advance to a more sustainable career path. One great option for workers looking to learn a new skill while earning an income is an apprenticeship.

With the majority of U.S. jobs requiring training above a high school degree but less than a bachelor’s degree, there are great career paths accessible to students with post-secondary vocational credentials. Apprenticeships are one of the most compelling models to attain these credentials. 

We’re starting this exploration in Colorado where we have a close partnership with the state government and Skillful to support middle-skill career pathways. Colorado’s approach to labor market issues is data-driven, and one of the insights that the state’s business and government leaders have surfaced is that only 23 percent of the state’s students graduate with an associate's or bachelor’s degree within three and six years, respectively, of finishing high school. However, most of the high school counseling and other secondary education resources in the state are allocated to help high school graduates pursue a four year degree.

Colorado’s leaders know that all students deserve to know what their career, education, and training options are, and how to design their own unique paths to success. These options include college but also apprenticeships, military service, technical training, and work. Colorado has committed to erasing the attainment and skills gaps by making all of these paths real options for all students.

To start, Colorado assembled a group of workforce, education and business leaders and visited Switzerland to study their success in vocational training. There, the Colorado delegation learned that 30 percent of high school graduates in Switzerland enter college and the other 70 percent enter apprenticeship programs — a ratio very similar to Colorado’s, which has a population roughly two thirds the size of Switzerland’s.

“That’s when it clicked for me,” said Stephanie Veck, the Director of Colorado’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC). “That’s when we saw how the Swiss are successfully serving 98 to 100 percent of young people, with a comparable amount going directly to college, and real opportunities for the other 70 percent. It isn't about these kids or those kids, it’s about ensuring that all kids have an equal opportunity for success and the tools to design a path that is uniquely right for them.”

Since returning from Switzerland and by building state-wide consensus on the importance of apprenticeships, Colorado has gone on to establish a business-led commission for work-based learning as well as a private nonprofit, CareerWise Colorado. CareerWise is a new apprenticeships program that works in partnership with public high schools in Colorado so students can learn both in the classroom and on the job during their junior and senior years.

We’re excited to partner on a key component of the Colorado apprenticeships program: awareness and transparency. Our first step in this journey is to serve as the Apprenticeship Marketplace for CareerWise Colorado. Specifically, we’re hosting CareerWise apprenticeships as job postings on LinkedIn to create a clear application path. We hope to do the same for all apprenticeships throughout the state.

In addition to publishing these opportunities and making them available online — meeting young adults where they are — Colorado took four key steps which can serve as great guidelines for other states interested in promoting apprenticeships:

  • Aligning state leadership around common goals. Governor Hickenlooper established an Education and Workforce Cabinet Subcommittee with representatives from the departments of K-12 Education, Higher Education, Economic Development, Labor and Employment, the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and others. Together, they all set shared goals to achieve together. They set a mission to grow the middle class and had great clarity on their pieces of the strategy to reach that goal, recognizing that it was only achievable through cross-departmental collaboration. That collaboration is convened and coordinated through the CWDC.
  • Establishing a common understanding and vernacular. Also known as dispelling the myths! Apprenticeships are not always an alternative to college. While some apprentices will stay in their field of training for the rest of their careers, some will decide they want to go onto college (and some will even have their employers pay for college.) In fact, Denver Public Schools has shown that students in Career and Technical Education programs have 30 percent higher education and career outcomes. It's critical that students, parents and employers understand the variety of career pathways started in apprenticeships and the permeability of school and apprenticeships.
  • Ensuring business leads. Governor Hickenlooper established the BEL Commission (Business Experiential-Learning Commission) in 2015 to “develop, evaluate and implement a systemic solution for integrated work-based education and training to meet the needs of Colorado’s economy.” Two-thirds of the commission seats are held by businesses leaders, and the commission is co-led by Noel Ginsberg, CEO of Intertech Plastics. Colorado was clear on their intention of having government facilitate the creation of work-based learning commissions and organizations, and to serve as a strong partner, but absolutely not to run those groups. The BEL commission serves an important role in ensuring critical mass of business commitment to apprenticeships, all committed to training workers.
  • Sharing the model. By establishing a culture of sharing and an open-source model, BEL and CareerWise maintain high accountability and receive greater feedback. Colorado’s transparency makes it clear that they want to lead in this area. As a result, partners in Colorado received more than $15 million last year from national funders interested in learning from the work in Colorado and in sharing its successes and failures with the rest of the country.

Apprenticeships are a promising model for helping workers gain skills to build the foundations of their careers and set themselves up for success. In keeping with our mission to connect the world's workers to make them more productive and successful, LinkedIn is committed to supporting Colorado’s efforts to expand their state apprenticeships program. We look forward to continuing to innovate with our Colorado state partners.

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