Denver, CO — Workforce development in Colorado continues to resonate as a trending topic in the public realm as well as across multiple private industries. In the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report of October 2015 provided by the Colorado Workforce Development Council, 62% of Coloradoans do not have a college degree. The report also noted that Colorado is known for meeting its workforce needs by recruiting workers from out of state. The Future Leaders Forum (FLF) of the Associated General Contractors of Colorado (AGC) supports an in-state workforce development through a program called The Master’s Apprentice to address labor shortages in construction.
The Master’s Apprentice program’s mission is to provide young men in Colorado urban communities a bridge to skilled trades. These include plumbing, electrical, HVAC, welding/metals, masonry and carpentry. This pre-apprentice program directly targets the local potential workforce that do not have a college degree.
Participants of this nine-week program are an average age of 23, have low income and little experience in construction. In order to join the class, these men must have a GED, driver’s license, a source of transportation, valid social security number and pass a drug test. Most pre-apprentices are metro area residents representing a diverse group of about 15% African-Americans, 30% Latino-Americans and 40% Anglo-Americans.
The Master’s Apprentice program has only one paid staff member – the Program Director – and relies on volunteers to staff the classes which are held Monday – Thursday, 8am – 3pm to allow participants to work other jobs for supplemental income. There were 14 coaches for the Winter Class which began January 11, 2016, teaching construction math, work ethics, career path goals and financial literacy.
This Winter Class, which graduated nine men on March 10, 2016, was sponsored by the AGC FLF. FLF used funds from their annual fundraiser to allocate $3,000 for each student that provided a stipend, personal protective equipment and a $200 scholarship upon graduation to be used exclusively for the books and tools needed for the first year in their selected trade.
According to Tyler Whittaker, Chair of the FLF Steering Committee from The Beck Group, the FLF recognized a hole in the workforce development and viewed The Master’s Apprentice as a way to align FLF’s goals with those of the program to promote leadership and stewardship for young professionals. “We, as a group, wanted to become more personally invested and not just write a check. We were able to be life coaches and provide mentorship, tools and job site visits in order to show these men that there are multiple ways to provide a future for themselves without the typical four-year college route,” commented Mr. Whittaker.
The Master’s Apprentice program is in its third year and according to Executive Director, Scott Flores, is starting to see graduating students refer their peers to apply for the program. “We are taking men from the community that have roots here in Denver, training them in skilled trades and placing them with local companies,” commented Mr. Flores.
Programs such as The Master’s Apprentice demonstrate that Colorado can provide a solution to its local workforce development issues with the support of organizations like the FLF, AGC and their members’ companies. Mr. Flores expressed, “Our goal is to host five sessions per year graduating about 50 pre-apprentices per year. We can only do this by having the right program at the right place with the right partners.”
Photos courtesy of The Master’s Apprentice