Boulder Chamber’s Apprentice Sponsorships are Gaining Momentum while Addressing Critical Workforce Needs
As the State’s Office of the Future of Work takes control of all active apprenticeships in Colorado – effective July 1st – the Boulder Chamber continues to work with industry leaders and partners in higher education to develop apprenticeship pathways that address critical workforce needs in the Boulder Area.
These pathways remain registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and align with industry standards, competencies, and cultures. They provide adults with competitive wages, real-world experiences, classroom instruction, mentorship, and industry-recognized certifications.
As a sponsor, the Chamber is responsible for monitoring each apprentice’s progress. This is accomplished via state-of-the-art software, which tracks skill development, wage increases, and other milestones relevant to the employer. The minimum requirement for any apprenticeship is 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2000 hours of on-the-job training with support from an experienced ‘journey worker’.
By working as an intermediary, it is the goal of the Boulder Chamber to remain flexible as new careers take shape and employer needs evolve.
WORKFORCE BOULDER COUNTY SEES CHANGES IN DEVELOPMENT OF EMPLOYERS AND CAREER SEEKERS
With apprenticeship support spanning decades, Workforce Boulder County has noticed benefits to the workforce development system through their partnership with Boulder Chamber. With increased employee retention, stable and reliable talent, and a wider and more diverse talent pool, apprentices complete their programs and contribute directly to addressing Boulder County’s workforce needs.
“Workforce Boulder County has supported apprenticeships for decades,” said Erin Jones, Executive Director of Workforce Boulder County. “We’re excited to work closely with the Boulder Chamber, and as the intermediary for several Registered Apprenticeships in Boulder County, the Chamber has accelerated the creation of a wider array of available opportunities.”
One way the Chamber grows apprenticeships is the convening of sector partnerships. Sector partnerships are comprised of business leaders from the same industry and in a shared labor market region, who meet regularly with education, workforce development, economic development, and community organizations to address the needs of their industry.
The Chamber currently convenes three partnerships– manufacturing, technology, and food, beverage, and hospitality – with two more (healthcare and professional services) slated for launch later this year.
APPRENTICESHIPS ENACTED THROUGH FRONT RANGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMBINE LEARNING AND EMPLOYER TRAINING
When asked to comment on the important nature of apprenticeships, Front Range Community College’s (FRCC), Chris Heuston, Director of Apprenticeships said, “Apprenticeships are a natural fit for our institution. Our purpose and passion are helping students start rewarding careers and lead successful lives through education.”
With the implementation of the Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership by We Love Trees, a group of local businesses and municipalities are working in collaboration to draw individuals to this skilled trade through apprenticeships.
“We’ve partnered with Front Range Community College, local non-profits, Chambers of Commerce, and workforce centers to help build the program,” continued Morin. “We’ve graduated our second cohort of apprentices and are starting enrollment for another this fall.
Partnering with local industries has been a critical part of the Front Range Community College business model, and the apprenticeship program allowed FRCC to bridge the gap between education and employment. With the assistance of the Boulder Chamber, paid on-the-job learning has increased workforce diversity, allowing candidates to pursue critical fields – 64% of FRCC’s apprentices are first-generation college students.
“The Boulder Chamber sponsors several of Front Range Community College’s Registered Apprenticeships,” Heuston continues. “This provides support to employers who start apprenticeship programs with the college. Through this collaboration, FRCC provides the classroom and lab instruction the students need, while employers get help to train their new employees with the critical skills their business needs.”
By the numbers, FRCC has seen growing and exceptional success through the Apprenticeship Program. Notable, in the Medical Assisting program, 99% of apprentices pass the national exam, and in Sterile Processing, 102 apprentices pass through the program, each with a pathway to employment due to their work with Centura, Boulder Community Health, UCHealth, and many smaller employers.
WITH HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS URGENTLY SEEKING TALENT, APPRENTICESHIPS LOOK FOR ATTRACTIVE CANDIDATES
In 2020, Boulder Community Health (BCH) partnered with the Boulder Chamber and FRCC to launch the first apprenticeship program in Boulder County. For BCH, this apprenticeship program has reduced labor costs and added a layer of support that has led to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.
“The apprenticeship model is a proven solution for filing gaps in workforce demand,” notes Bernadine Sharp, Talent Acquisition Supervisor of Boulder Community Health. “Boulder Chamber acts as our sponsor, assisting with required documentation and apprentice progress monitoring. That support has been instrumental in making the process more streamlined.”
In a testament to the success and fulfilling nature of the apprenticeship program, Austin Bileen, who graduated from the Sterile Processing Technician Apprenticeship Program in 2023 states, “This program has given me the opportunity to better myself and find a foundation for my future. I’m so happy with this program and loving the hands-on education.”
NEW PATHWAY DEVELOPMENT ON THE HORIZON
Most recently, the Boulder Chamber has registered an Optics Manufacturing Technician pathway with Excelitas Technologies, who has not only invested in the hiring of apprentices but have several employees teaching.
“As we’ve developed our partnership with the Boulder Chamber, Front Range Community College, and the apprenticeship model, we’ve learned that we have the tools and resources in place to amplify our efforts and ensure success for our new group of apprentices.”, commented, Kerri Ryan, Human Resources Supervisor of Excelitas.
The Boulder Chamber currently sponsors four active pathways in healthcare and manufacturing, while approximately ten others are in development. These new pathways range from medical billing, tech support, cybersecurity, finance, and biomanufacturing – all key industries for the region.
For more information about the Boulder Chamber’s Adult Apprenticeship Program, contact: Matt Wiggins, Director of Workforce Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.