$75K grant aims to grow new apprenticeships in Northwest Colorado

RBC | Helping Americans get back to work fast while growing their skills and at the same time filling critical labor shortages for rural employers is the aim of a new apprenticeship initiative being developed at the college.

“Apprenticeships have been a tried and true option for growing trade skills. They’re proving to be a powerful help to fill other highly skilled roles such as in healthcare and technology,” said Ron Granger, President of Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Regional labor market data indicates the largest demand is in home health care and aids followed by registered nurses, EMTs, nursing assistants, and behavioral health substance abuse counselors.

“While the college has strong and growing programs, for some of these occupations, an apprenticeship program might help fill the gaps for other occupations. Current employees can become apprentices and may help employers grow their own. Apprenticeships are also options for people who want to improve their opportunities while continuing to earn a paycheck, and expanding the talent pool,” said Christina Oxley Business Services Coordinator Northwest Workforce Sub-Area Colorado Rural Workforce Consortium.

The college was awarded $75,000 from the Colorado Healthcare Experiential Pathways to Success (CO-Helps) and Filling the Skills Gap (Co-Tech) programs to develop a college sponsored, multi-employer apprenticeship program.

“This model allows medium and small businesses to grow their own highly skilled workforce without the additional administrative burden larger employers and trade organizations assume when registering federally approved apprenticeship programs,” said Sasha Nelson, Director of Workforce Training and Community Programming for the college.

During the first phase of the program, the college is actively seeking partnerships with area employers hiring healthcare and technology jobs.

“This is a great opportunity for our communities to help grow our local workforce in high-demand positions and careers. The state and the college have committed to this project, but we can’t do this alone. We need people and businesses in our local communities willing to take a chance and partner with us to try something a little different,” Granger said.

“Dollar for dollar, no workforce training method packs as much punch as apprenticeship,” said Melissa Anzlovar, Colorado Department of Higher Education Healthcare Apprenticeship Consultant and former rural medical provider. “On average, employers’ average return on investment is $1.47 for every $1 invested. Investments in the rural workforce can lead to improvements in the economic stability of communities.”

Apprenticeship programs reduce hiring and turn over costs and overtime, provide opportunities for cross training and improve employee engagement. The college model aims to make the process simple and affordable for employers and employees.

In a recent presentation about CNCC’s model, Melissa English, Apprenticeship Specialist, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, described the simple steps employers would need to take to participate:

  • Work in partnership with CNCC to identify your organization’s specific needs
  • Complete Employer Agreement and submit to USDOL
  • Hire apprentice
  • Pay apprentice progressively increasing wages
  • Provide on-the job learning (OJL) for apprentice
  • Match apprentice with qualified mentor
  • Submit updates on apprentices progress and hours to CNCC

“We already have students eager to earn while they learn — ready to take on the roles of full time student and full time employee to fill labor shortages in our area,” Nelson said.

To learn more about hiring an apprentice or becoming an apprentice contact Sasha Nelson by calling 970-824-1118 or emailing Sasha.Nelson@cncc.edu.

Special to The Herald Times