November 13-19 is National Apprenticeship Week!
With the state of Colorado looking to create more apprenticeship opportunities, Front Range Community College is celebrating the incredible growth of its apprenticeship programs over the last five years.
FRCC started its first apprenticeship program in 2018 in medical assisting—with just two apprentices and a single local healthcare partner. (Read how that first apprenticeship helped student Laura Seitz launch her new career as a medical assistant.)
Since then, FRCC has trained 439 apprentices in 11 different occupations in partnership with 36 local employers.
Filling Workforce Gaps
“Due to a nationwide labor shortage, many employers are struggling to fill positions that keep their companies running,” said FRCC’s Director of Apprenticeships Chris Heuston. “Apprenticeships are an incredibly effective tool that Colorado businesses can use to build their own workforce pipeline, helping their organization get qualified employees into their hard-to-fill jobs.”
These valuable partnerships combine on-the-job training (provided by the employer) with sponsorship and related classroom instruction (provided by the college). FRCC apprenticeships ensure a smooth transition from education to employment and give students a chance to earn while they learn.
Growing Our Programs
As a college, FRCC’s mission is to enrich lives through learning. Apprenticeships do just that for our students by providing paid on-the-job learning. And in just five years, the college has gone from its very first apprenticeship in to 11 offerings in different fields of work.
FRCC has established apprenticeship programs that help students enter the workforce in:
- Health care
- Advanced manufacturing and optics
- Information technology
- Tree care
And the college is now expanding into additional sectors such as construction, business, cybersecurity and graphic design. Read more about FRCC’s apprenticeship options.
Building an Employee Pipeline
With high demand for a trained workforce in Colorado—and historically low unemployment rates— apprenticeships can meet employer needs by providing a direct pathway connecting education with employment.
Apprenticeships help shorten the timeframe for employers to be able to hire the workers they need—and these workers (“apprentices”) are paid during their on-the-job training. Many of the employers FRCC works with also pay apprentices during the time they spend in our classrooms.
“We can’t seem to find enough medical assistants—there’s such a demand,” says Jeanne Buscietta,Practice Administrator for Arbor Family Medicine. “Our partnership with FRCC helps us to get students trained better and faster, and allows us to get our hands on them as employees sooner. It’s a good business strategy. It makes a difference for our operations.”
Making Great Careers More Accessible
By providing paid on-the-job learning, apprenticeships also allow a more diverse group of candidates to pursue employment in critical fields like health care. (64% of FRCC’s apprentices are first-generation college students. Only 6% of our apprentices have taken out student loans.) And they leave the program with continued employment.
Many apprenticeships can be completed in just four to 18 months. And because students get paid while learning on the job, they’re also an affordable path into a new careers.
Apprenticeship pathways have tremendous success—93% of FRCC’s health care apprentices have earned their certificate or degree. Because they get to do hands-on learning with a mentor at work, which is supported by in-class experience, apprenticeships are more successful than the average technical education program.
Building Apprenticeships With FRCC
With FRCC’s apprenticeship team as a guide, building an apprenticeship Is easy for business owners. “FRCC does a great job of crafting and building all the documentation to begin a new apprenticeship,” says Doug Pederson, CEO of Hexagon Machine and MFG., LLC.
“The team is super helpful in connecting us with the state of Colorado for rebates. They are easy to work with and it’s great to have a workforce pipeline in place for our company!”
“Front Range Community College has been an instrumental partner,” says Jaime Pearson, Talent Partnership Lead with CommonSpirit Health. “Their ability and willingness to think outside the box in terms of higher education and what it looks like moving forward, their flexibility to modify and adapt new programs, and their continued support for our organization and our apprentices is so valuable and greatly appreciated”
“The FRCC team goes above and beyond in ensuring apprentices are set up for success, which in turn benefits our greater team,” she adds.
An Ambassador for Apprenticeship
In 2022, Front Range Community College was the first institution of higher education in Colorado to receive the designation of “Apprenticeship Ambassador” with the US Department of Labor.
The ambassador program seeks to create a national network of employers, labor organizations, industry associations, program sponsors, educators, workforce intermediaries, minority-serving organizations, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to serve as champions for expanding and diversifying registered apprenticeships.
In critical fields like health care, apprenticeships can make a huge difference for people in our local communities. Here at FRCC, apprenticeships also change our students lives—by paying them to get the hands-on training they need to start great careers that allow them to support themselves, their families and our communities.
Read about some of our students’ apprenticeship journeys here!
In the end, apprentices get great training and the chance to start rewarding new careers. And their employers get the well-trained employees they need for their business’ hard-to-fill positions. Apprenticeships truly are a win-win situation for everyone involved.