For the first time in 27 years, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation went intercontinental to Munich, Germany, for Leadership Exchange (LEX), taking 130-plus Denver metro area business leaders to explore innovations happening in another community and bring those best practices home. On this trip, delegates focused in on workforce readiness and Germany’s apprenticeship model.
“The apprenticeship model, while not new to Europe, has new applicability within the U.S., particularly for growing regions struggling to meet workforce demands,” Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, reflected after the trip. “It presents a win-win: a viable way to ensure more high school students explore careers before college while populating organizations with employees they desperately need.”
Delegates met and saw apprentices in action at seven different companies that spanned industries from manufacturing to hospitality and banking: ARRI, Deutsche Bahn AG, HypoVereinsbank, IWIS Motor Systeme, MTU Aero Engines AG, Sofitel and Stadtwerke München. Leaders challenged their perceptions of apprenticeships, the role businesses play and the return on cultivating talent.
How apprenticeships work in Germany: Students choose between standard secondary education or a vocational pathway, which combines schooling and workplace training. Two-thirds of students choose the apprenticeship track and 93 percent of those apprentices stay with the organization that employed them.
This has never been more relevant for Colorado. While we are home to one of the most highly educated workforces and a low unemployment rate, only a fraction of Colorado kids receive a post-secondary credential. It’s called the Colorado Paradox. By 2020, 74 percent of Colorado jobs will require some post-secondary credentials and today roughly 54 percent of Coloradans have post-secondary credentials. The apprenticeship model offers a workforce development solution.
When Jon Kinning, co-owner, executive vice president and COO of RK, said it best when posed with the question, “What if you train [apprentices] and they leave?” He replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?” Apprenticeship-focused programs including CareerWise, CareerConnect at Denver Public Schools and the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative –which is a program of the Denver Metro Chamber and focuses on re-engaging young adults who aren’t in school or working – are already underway in the Denver metro area.
Many wonder how we can begin to implement such a huge undertaking. It starts with collaboration – it’s in Colorado’s Civic DNA™. In Colorado we have a history working together for the common good. It can be messy and unpredictable, but it has raised a lot of barns here.
Besnette Hauser and Kinning are exploring a pilot in the construction sector. Other companies have likewise voiced their support for building apprenticeships, internships, job shadows and other real-world work experiences for youth. To learn more or find out how you can get involved in Denver check out Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative’s Talent Toolkit.
Erica Rutledge is the programs and events coordinator for the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation.