Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Eagle Valley Schools’ career programs aid students, businesses (column) |

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Eagle Valley Schools’ career programs aid students, businesses (column)

There are many reasons to choose a career. Aptitude ranks highly, as does interest — and of course, you need to get paid enough money to live on. For some, their career path is also guided by a sense of altruism. They are looking for a job where they can make a difference. The perfect job for these folks allows them to give back to their communities.

The good news is that there’s a wide spectrum of careers that fit that description. You can find jobs that give back and help people in industries as wide-ranging as health care, energy, law enforcement and education. And speaking of education: don’t assume that every job that helps others will require you to spend years in school.

While many occupations require advanced education, others are open to those with a bachelor’s degree. Still others require only an associate degree or high school diploma and some additional work-based training.

Data released by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that both hiring and wages are up. Perhaps your company has first-hand experience. You are trying to hire new talent, but you know that doing so will require you to offer higher wages than you have in the past. So, what do you do when higher wages alone are not enough to attract the talent you need?

According to the Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index, employers spent 0.6 percent more on employment costs in the fourth quarter of 2017, after absorbing a 0.7 percent rise the previous quarter. The total year-on-year rate increase for the period ending with Q3 2017 was 2.6 percent. It all translates to a 2.8 percent average wage increase for the 12 months ending this past December.

Wage growth in 2018 is continuing at the same rate. The jobless rate (nationally) is 3.5 percent and locally is under 2 percent. All of this is excellent news for both the labor market and the economy as a whole. But it leads us back to the question of what employers can do when wages alone aren’t enough to attract top talent.

Today, the burden of educating the newest members of Colorado’s workforce falls directly on our schools. But businesses are having difficulty finding employees with the appropriate competencies to effectively fill skilled positions. It is incumbent for us to grow our own talent. Internships and modern youth apprenticeship help address the talent problem by helping businesses have a hand in shaping their young talent and providing the education system with an applied-learning environment for its students.

Fortunately, numerous local resources exist to help identify opportunities. Eagle County Schools’ CareerX program brings Eagle County youth together with local businesses to create internship and job shadow experiences. This allows high school students opportunities to explore careers, learn about local businesses and develop college and career plans that fit their interests. Offering a broad variety of internship and job shadow experiences allows students to expand their understanding of career opportunities and customize academic planning to fit career goals.

CareerX and the CareerWise apprenticeship program can put our students on multiple paths to success and at the same time help our businesses develop a talent pipeline. Youth internships and apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for any student — whether you’re on your way to college, directly to a career, both or simply aren’t sure — to help pave the way to a successful future. They are also an excellent opportunity for any business — across industry sectors and geography — to help pave the way for employee attraction and retention.

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

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