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 A CareerWise employee greats guests as they enter the convention centerA partnership designed to provide workforce and educational opportunities for area youth,  brokered by District 60 alumni Paul and Yvonne Tienda through the Tienda Foundation, was officially unveiled Tuesday at the Pueblo Convention Center.

CareerWise Colorado connects education and industry to provide high school students with paid apprenticeships in 30 different occupational fields, including business, education, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, information technology, construction and more.

Participants split their time between the traditional high school classroom and the workplace, earning a livable wage while receiving hands-on work experience that complements classroom learning and can provide a pathway to a viable career.

Along with the apprenticeship, participants have the opportunity to concurrently enroll in college, thereby earning credits that can be applied to a degree.

To kickstart the program locally, the Tienda Foundation agreed to fund the first 10 apprenticeship positions. East High School presently hosts four apprentices: three in the future educator arena and one in maintenance.

Tuesday at the Pueblo Convention Center, education, government, business and non-profit leaders gathered to hear from CJ Renaud, Director of Business Partnerships for CareerWise Colorado, who touted the program as a “think outside the box” venture designed to meet workforce shortages while providing an avenue for students to embrace their future.

Director Renaud provided an encompassing overview of the program, focusing on its benefits and encouraging the leaders present to focus on the “why” -- “Why is this important for my community and Pueblo?” – rather than the “how” of implementation.

“Be a part of the solution,” Director Renaud encouraged those in attendance.

The components of apprenticeship training include at least 2,000 hours on the job; completion of 144 hours in related-instruction classes; earning of an industry credential, followed by a rating of “proficient” by the supervisor if the apprentice reaches 100 percent on technical proficiencies and 75 percent of career-ready proficiencies. CJ Renaud, Director of Business Partnerships for CareerWise Colorado, speaks to a room full of people

By forming alliances with the local education system, CareerWise will recruit apprentices from high schools for hiring by business and industry while offering ongoing program support and training.

Mayor Nick Gradisar said the apprenticeship program is a positive step toward alleviating shortages in the local workforce.

“It’s very difficult for us to try and attract business and industry to the City of Pueblo when they don’t have a workforce they can rely on,” the Mayor noted. “And I believe CareerWise can play a crucial and critical role for some businesses. And for some of our students, it will be the start of the answer to their career goals. 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that for some of our students, this program will keep them interested in school – and allow them to earn money when they are in school.”

Pueblo native Fred Galves, a retired law school professor and now Colorado State University Pueblo’s special assistant to the President for community engagement, said the financial inventive can by a catalyst to keep students in the classroom.

“They won’t feel tempted to quit high school to start making money,” said Mr. Galves, who also touted the program’s opportunities for concurrent enrollment.

“They are getting credit toward high school and college,” he noted. “It’s almost a way to give them a full-ride scholarship because the state pays for it. And by the time they get to CSU Pueblo, they might already be in their junior or senior year. So you’re helping families, because you are helping these young people to get scholarships.”