The Swiss Secret to Jump-Starting Your Career
A first-of-its-kind youth apprenticeship program in Colorado aims to prepare students for the industries of the future by mirroring a successful model in Europe.
On a recent sunny summer morning, Ben Roueche pulled into the parking lot at the corporate headquarters of HomeAdvisor, in a suburban office park near Denver.
Once inside, Roueche, wearing jeans and a Tshirt, sat down at a desk, logged on to his computer, and started resolving support tickets submitted by HomeAdvisor employees seeking
help for everything from password resets to problems accessing the company’s internal phone system.
At one point, Roueche paused to chat with his supervisor about establishing a setup procedure for a new video prototype that some executives will soon begin using.
Ben Roueche is 17; he just finished his junior year of high school.
For the past year, he has spent three days a week attending classes at a charter high school and two days a week working on the desktop-support team at HomeAdvisor.
Earlier this summer, Roueche started working at HomeAdvisor three days a week, a schedule he’ll maintain throughout his senior year.
Roueche belongs to the inaugural class of apprentices in a Colorado program, started last summer, called CareerWise.
It represents Colorado’s attempt to create an unusual, statewide youth-apprenticeship system.
“This program has more scale than almost any other broad apprenticeship that I know of,” Harry Holzer, a public-policy professor at Georgetown University, told me.
Its goals are ambitious: CareerWise’s founders are trying to both prepare today’s youth for well-paid jobs in the industries of the future and to change a culture that insists every 18-year-old should graduate high school and go straight to college.
CareerWise is the brainchild of Noel Ginsburg, the founder of a Colorado-based advanced manufacturing company called Intertech Plastics.
Ginsburg visited Switzerland, which has a widely admired youth-apprenticeship program, while serving as the chairman of the Denver Public Schools College and Career Pathways council.
“What I didn’t expect is that apprenticeship isn’t just for construction-they have over 250 pathways there, everything from manufacturing to banking,” Ginsburg told me.
“Seventy percent of kids there enroll in apprenticeships instead of going directly to college.”
Switzerland’s not the only developed country with a robust apprenticeship program; the model has long been prevalent in Germany and Austria, and both Australia and the United Kingdom have launched initiatives in recent years to increase apprenticeship.
Studies of programs in these countries have documented substantial economic benefits for both apprentices and their employees.
The model remains rare in the United States.
Ginsburg was convinced that a statewide apprenticeship program could both help address Colorado’s workforce challenges and widen access to well-paying jobs across a variety of industries not typically associated with apprenticeship.
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