Romer: CareerWise helps solve Colorado’s workforce issues (column) |

Romer: CareerWise helps solve Colorado’s workforce issues (column)

Vail Valley Partnership and CareerWise Colorado have announced the launch of CareerWise, an apprenticeship initiative designed to positively address our community workforce needs.

Colorado’s economy is growing, and our education system is not keeping pace. The reality is that students in Colorado are graduating with a skill gap that is negatively affecting businesses. This means we must rethink education, employing innovative and collaborative solutions. Using the Swiss Apprenticeship System as a model for inspiration, CareerWise is determined to unite businesses and educators to provide a business-led, student-centered program that addresses real-world needs.

Along with CareerWise, our local team is prepared to guide businesses, work with educators, support students and oversee the entire process to ensure success. This program will help local employers grow new talent for the long term and, at the same time, assist students in identifying career pathways and finding rewarding employment here in the valley.

• The business case for apprenticeships: Hosting apprenticeships and becoming a training business isn’t about charity; it’s about investing in your future. Companies regularly identify the problem of recruiting skilled job candidates as a major challenge, but Colorado’s youth still stand massively underemployed. This is a threat to our long-term growth. Programs similar to CareerWise apprenticeships result in less turnover and fewer wasted training dollars.

• CareerWise benefits: 70 percent of Colorado adults are not from the Centennial State. They are highly educated transplants that have come to fill a desperate need for talent among Colorado companies. At the same time, local youth face high unemployment rates. Countries with similar programs to CareerWise have the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world.

• Businesses become centers of learning: Innovation is at home in Colorado. Our state is growing rapidly and is poised to have a great impact on the nation’s economic future. CareerWise is aligning with businesses in the information technology, finance, business operations and advanced manufacturing sectors to provide students with robust apprenticeships. Partnering businesses will help students connect theory with practice.

• Multiple paths to success: The same pathway through high school and beyond will not work for every student. College may not be the best solution for every student, but an apprenticeship can be. All students can benefit from learning workplace skills as they gain a practical education. An apprenticeship does not close doors; it opens them. When a student successfully completes an apprenticeship, he or she will have a variety of options entering the workforce or seeking specialized training.

Today, the burden of educating the newest members of Colorado’s workforce falls directly on our schools, and that needs to change. This should be a joint effort.

CareerWise’s mission is to create opportunities for youth and businesses across Colorado by developing and supporting an innovative, sustainable youth apprenticeship program. Through this business-led, student-centered model, Vail Valley Partnership will help bring together public and private stakeholders to ensure students have access to the skills and knowledge they need for financial and academic success and businesses have access to highly trained talent.

Don’t forget, Vail Valley Partnership’s member survey is live at

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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