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Manufacturing companies in the Longmont area are looking for local students to join their workforces through apprenticeship programs coordinated by CareerWise Colorado.
CareerWise has partnered with sticker and label manufacturer StickerGiant, SparkFun, an open-source e-retailer focused on embedded electronics, and imaging technologies company Lexmark to create four apprenticeship opportunities in the Longmont area for St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school district students and one apprenticeship in the Loveland area with LPR/Longbow Construction, an industrial and commercial construction services company.
“We’re always looking for as many opportunities as we can for all of our school district partners,” said Whitney Allen, customer success manager at CareerWise, a Denver-based nonprofit that connects students with employers for applied-learning opportunities. “We happen to have two companies … in Longmont that are going to be hiring between now and mid-April, and we’re excited to get the word out to Longmont families.”
CareerWise serves as a matchmaker and is on the lookout for young people interested in exploring careers in manufacturing through the three-year apprenticeship program, said Erika Germer, CareerWise Colorado K-12 partnerships manager.
To be eligible for apprenticeships, students need to be 16 by summer and must commit to the program’s three-year duration, she said.
Unlike shorter internships, apprentices in the program will be prepared to step into full-time roles upon completion, Germer said. Apprentices also have the opportunity to earn a professional certification and a good paycheck, and build a professional network.
“Apprentices work with a direct supervisor and their teams, are assigned a coach/mentor at the company and many have regular direct interaction with CEOs and other executives (and) apprentices can earn about $40,000 over the course of the program,” Germer said.
The nonprofit has partnered with SVVSD for more than two years to bring information to students through the district’s Career Development Center and works directly with school counselors to ensure students are successful throughout the program, she said.
“We are also connecting on a one-on-one basis outside of school,” Germer said. “We are deliberate in looking at nonprofits or community groups with strong relationships with the community and use them as recruiting (partners) to find students who want to be a part of something new and do not think it is possible for them.”
Kristen Moorefiled, director of operations at SparkFun, said this is the first year the company will have apprentices on site.
“We started building relationships with CareerWise in mid- to late 2019, and our plan was to bring two apprentices in the summer last year,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic slowed that timeline. “(Safety) conditions have worked really well, so we decided this year would be a good opportunity to reinstate and get this going,” Moorefiled said.
SparkFun has two apprenticeship openings and it is specifically looking to welcome a student of color to its workforce, she said.
“We've always valued diversity … we are open to whatever we can do to diversify our workforce, BIPOC (or black, Indigenous and people of color) is one of the things that is prevalent and in the forefront for many employers, especially for us,” Moorefiled said. “We are walking the walk. We redesigned all of our public spaces to be more inclusive and welcoming to everyone, this is the next progression of walking that walk.”
The company seeks to break stereotypical notions of what manufacturing looks like and perceptions people have of a manufacturing warehouse, she said.
“We have a great crew, (that is) super fun and on the younger side, who work really hard. People have been with us for a decade. It’s an interesting environment, atypical of what people envision when they think about manufacturing,” Moorefiled said. “We want to open people's eyes about what it really is and what it can be.”
SparkFun produces 300 to 400 circuit boards on an annual basis and introduces about 60 new boards every year, Moorefiled said. “It is a lot to keep up with, especially in a pandemic, (this program) gives us some extra power so we can do what we do.”
Apprentices will gain tangible skills such as soldering, testing and quality assurance, programming and processing.
“We are looking for students who are ready to work and ready to learn, and who are willing to provide feedback, be curious and ask questions,” Moorefiled said. “We are taking the future talent in this area and providing skills that will absolutely translate into professions in the future.”
In addition to SparkFun, StickerGiant and Lexmark, additional apprenticeship opportunities will open soon with Bobo's Oat Bars.For more information on available CareerWise apprenticeship opportunities, click here or visit the SVVSD Career Development Center website.