Last Wednesday, a panel of Arvada high school students spoke to the business community about their workforce preparation, career goals, and expectations from future employers at the Arvada Works Quarterly Summit. The summit, hosted at Thrive Workplace – West Arvada, brought together a diverse set of students from Arvada High and Arvada West who participate in work-based learning programs to explore and prepare for a career prior to graduation.
Outside of the traditional high school classroom, these students are engaged in programs like Career Explore, Colorado Homebuilding Academy, and Warren Tech that connect high school students to real-world workforce training and internship opportunities. Now following graduation, the panel of students has aspirations of entering career pathways in a variety of fields: culinary arts, construction, biology, photography, and forensic science. Thank you to our community leaders who helped organize the event and provided details on the career pathway programs available in Arvada: Sheri Bryant and Jen Marquez at Jeffco Public Schools, Amanda Hoffa at Jefferson County Business and Workforce Center, and Tamra Lowe at Career Explore Program at Arvada High School.
6 Employer Aha Moments From the Works Summit
- Education and workforce advocates are critical for student success. Many of the students cited a specific teacher or program leader who introduced them to an alternate education pathway and encouraged their progress. “Honestly didn’t think I was going to do anything with my life,” said Hannah, a senior who was introduced to programs at Warren Tech and now has a career path she’s passionate about. Advocates for these students also came from the community, like Boy Scouts of America.
- Students need more hands-on education and experience. “I’m better with hands on learning,” said Austin, a senior who struggled with traditional classes before joining the Colorado Home Builders program. The Career Explore program takes students to businesses for tours and information gathering. “Every tour that we went to, we all got something out of it, whether we wanted to go down that path or not,” said Kilyn, a senior at Arvada High.
Finding a career that a student is passionate about is often more important than salary. Nearly every student cited wanting to work for a company that they believed in, in a job they were passionate about. Whether this meant looking into PTA schools in Georgia so they could help people as part of their jobs, planning to start their own business or trying to make it big in an industry like film or music, students want to follow their heart, not the money. It was noted that no student mentioned salary expectations. When asked whether they would prefer one job that paid more or another that paid less but offered opportunities for more education, every student chose the latter. One student said he would feel more loyal to the company that’s offering educational opportunities. “Most people want their children to have a job that’s going to support them their whole life,” said Madison, a senior at Arvada West. “I want to do something that makes me happy.”
Students need opportunities (and allowance) to fail. Multiple students mentioned a mentor or advocate who gave them enough rope to try new things when exploring career paths. “[My teacher] lets us do it ourselves. She lets us fall down sometimes and lets us know it’s okay to fail,” said one student. “That’s how you’re successful.”
The local workforce should explore more opportunities for part time work. Some students mentioned that despite having proper certification and education, they still had a difficult time finding part-time, summer, or internship opportunities in this area. As a response, those in the business community admitted they needed to do a better job finding value for someone that’s part time and looking into internships.
Local businesses need to be better informed of current programs in schools that help meet their talent pipeline needs. “[The business community needs to be] educated on the new programs to schools,” said Kilyn. “There are kids getting out there earlier than normal and learning careers. We need to have as much advice as possible and be pushed to get out there even more.” Below are resources available to students in Jefferson County to explore and advance along a career pathway. They can also look at different IT exams that can help them onto a path that facilitates their needs in a positive and beneficial way.
Key Resources to Know
- Career Explore Program. This unique Jefferson County program started in the Fall of 2017 and offers at-risk students career readiness activities and internships. Currently, five high schools in the district participate: Golden, Wheat Ridge, Dakota Ridge, Chapel, and Arvada. With a 92% success rate, the program encourages dignity in all work, allowing students to investigate and challenge themselves to find what they want to do. The program is looking for donors and sponsors for its upcoming Star Night Awards Celebration and Fundraiser. This event directly funds the school programs for the following year. Learn more here.
- Warren Tech. The career and technical high school serves all of Jefferson County with North and Central campuses. The school offers students professional programs with certifications to go out in the community and work. Currently, there are not enough opportunities for all students. Learn how you can partner with Warren Tech and post job opportunities here.
- Colorado Homebuilding Academy. Students attend a two-semester program, one of which is all hands on, and gain certification necessary for the construction sector. Students get 160 hours of paid internship time and jobs can turn to part-time, FT, or summer employment into the pathway. The program is looking for more companies to offer internship opportunities.
- Arvada High Academic Pathways. Mark McIntosh provided an introduction to a new Academic Pathways program at Arvada High beginning in the Fall of 2019. The program will include three pathways: Arts and Humanities, STEM, and Sports Business. “A lot of kids grow up dreaming of being a professional athlete,” said Mark. “But for kids who love sports, the sports business is a great career path.” The Sports Business pathway includes five course avenues: sports marketing, sports management, sports medicine, sports journalism, and coaching. Students will understand more than most the wild popularity of college sports like NCAA basketball and so this would likely be seen as an area where money can be made. Sports businesses like ATS have arisen to take advantage of this by cementing themselves as premium sportsbook services offering free college basketball picks to fans of the sport looking to potentially win big on the victories of their favorite teams. Success of this business may give students the confidence to pursue their own ideas in the industry.
- CareerWise Colorado. A first-of-its-kind statewide youth apprentice system that brings together public and private stakeholders to prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need for financial and academic success. Apprenticeship pathways include advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, financial services, and more.
- Jefferson County Business & Workforce Center. Find resources and information on economic development, occupational data, workforce and community colleges.
- O*Net Online. A detailed resource the students use for career exploration and job analysis.
Career Exploration Week
Join us the week of April 22-28, for Career Exploration Week! You can join hundreds of businesses, schools and non-profits across our community to promote YOUR industry and company to our local youth and adult workforce pipelines. Career Exploration Week will ignite passion in our community! Help to make a difference in the future of Arvada.
To be connected to a local school or non-profit that fits your schedule, please click here.