Local organizations seek businesses for local workforce pipeline programs

Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle County Schools and other partners want to connect businesses with job shadowing, internships and apprenticeship program

The annual CareerWise Luncheon hosted by Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools allows businesses to learn about the various workforce pipelines that exist in Eagle County.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

For the past five years, local partners — Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle County Schools, YouthPower365, Colorado Mountain College and the Colorado Workforce Center — have been working to simultaneously build out unique career pathways for students and workforce pipeline businesses.

Each year, the local success and implementation of programs like CareerWise modern apprenticeships, Eagle County School District’s CareerX job and career readiness programming as well as job shadow, mentorship and internship opportunities have grown — even bringing some notoriety to Eagle County.  

“When this started five years ago, it was just me trying to do all this stuff. I had partners but I was trying to do everything and now there’s just so many community partners that provide a richer experience for these students,” said Erik Williams, the director of community development for the Vail Valley Partnership.

“Now, I probably get two phone calls a week from other communities that know that we’re doing this asking me how to build an apprenticeship program, which I absolutely love. And it’s part of responsibility too. CareerWise chose us as the first rural community to do this, and the fact that we got it and they worked so well with us; I think it’s my responsibility to keep sharing it with as many people as possible.”

Each year, the five main local partners work to pair students and businesses, starting at the end of summer with the recruitment of businesses looking to expand their workforce pipeline.

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This year, the recruitment is kicking off on Thursday, Aug. 25 with an annual luncheon hosted by the Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools. The goal of the luncheon is for businesses to “learn about workforce pipelines that exist in this community,” Williams said.  

While in the past, the luncheon has focused primarily on the CareerWise apprenticeship program, this year’s will talk about all the opportunities these partners provide. This includes three main areas, Williams said: job shadowing, internships and the apprenticeship program.

“We used to sell the apprenticeship really hard when we were trying to build it, but now it’s growing so organically and it’s growing so well that we’re trying just to make sure everybody knows what offerings are available and let them take advantage of it,” Williams said.

Representatives from Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle County Schools, YouthPower365, Colorado Mountain College and the Colorado Workforce Center will all present at the luncheon on what their involvement and contributions are to the local programs. This will offer an opportunity for businesses to connect with these representatives and see what might be a good fit for their workforce needs.

In general, Williams offered that the internships can be more exploratory for businesses — offering an insight into how a young employee can benefit a workplace — whereas, an apprentice is more about building and training an employee that could grow into a career at your business.

However, all these programs, are meant to fill “the need of the valley,” he said.

“I want businesses to see this as a hiring strategy moving forward,” Williams said. “One of the things that gets me excited is some of our larger companies are seeing this as a future hiring strategy; that’s my goal: that it’s just one of the pipelines that they use to access workers.”

In June 2022, Sen. John Hickenlooper visited Colorado Mountain College to meet local representatives and students involved in the various workforce pipeline programs in Eagle County. This includes CareerWise modern apprenticeships, Eagle County School District’s CareerX job and career readiness programming as well as job shadow, mentorship and internship opportunities.
Michael Judson/Courtesy photo

And in terms of who these programs may be a good fit for, “it really is open to any business who is willing to train a youth and looking for that kind of energy,” Williams said.

“I would say the barrier to entry is — for businesses right now — them having the time to train something and that idea that it’s going to take longer to train a youth,” he added. “It does take longer to train a youth than adults who’ve been in different jobs, but there’s also so many backend supports that we provide for youths: mindfulness studies and financial studies and quarterly meetings, trainings and professional development. We do so much to keep the apprentices active and a part of that.”

The timeline for these programs is already underway, with the recruitment of businesses starting now and running through the end of the year. This process primarily includes determining the right fit as well as getting job descriptions from the businesses looking to participate.

Then, in January, begins the process of recruiting students — which for the apprenticeship program is high school juniors — and preparing them to apply for the positions. YouthPower365 does a lot of this training including resume building, mock interviews and more. From there, students are connected with businesses and, if the right fit for an apprenticeship they begin their two-year program in the summer.

These programs have seen immense growth year over year as they break down stigmas around different career pipelines for students and as businesses see the return on investment from the students. Even through COVID-19, Williams said Eagle County was one of the only CareerWise programs to keep seated apprentices. And since, it’s only grown further.

“Post-COVID, it’s like the hose was kinked and we finally got it free again and businesses are saying, ‘I want this,’” he said. “It’s the perfect storm of everything working at the same time — it’s existed in this valley long enough that people know it’s a viable option. And, within the student population; it’s showing that it’s just as cool as college and just as lucrative, which is a hard thing to do, breaking that stigma, but I really do think that we’re doing a good job at that.”

As evidence, last year, the CareerWise program welcomed 17 new businesses and 20 new apprentices in Eagle County. With the luncheon this year, Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools are only looking to grow the momentum of the programs.

“Everybody wants to talk about hiring youth,” Williams said.

If you go…

What: Vail Valley Partnership and Eagle County Schools Student Workforce Luncheon

Where: Colorado Mountain College, Edwards Campus (150 Miller Ranch Rd, Edwards)

When: Thursday, Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To RSVP: Visit and visit its CareerWise landing page.

This event is free, but RSVPs are required to ensure there’s enough food for all. 


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