By Joellen Kralik
The New Mexico Legislative Education Study Commission (LESC) is meeting in Santa Fe this week, and much of the agenda is dedicated to learning about high quality systems of career and technical education (CTE), both abroad and in the United States.
This Wednesday, members of the New Mexico LESC had the opportunity to learn about one state’s innovative approach to implementing a modern youth-apprenticeship system: Colorado’s CareerWise. CareerWise is a nongovernmental, nonprofit intermediary that is rooted in a strong partnership between business, community, government and education.
CareerWise high school apprentices spend three days a week at school and two days a week at their apprenticeship sites, where they earn at least minimum wage. More than 40 Colorado employers have hired student apprentices to work in four different career paths including advanced manufacturing, information technology, financial services and business operations. Only about 100 students are participating in CareerWise’s first cohort, but the organization has an expansion strategy to reach 10 percent of all Colorado high school students within its 10th year.
CareerWise President Gretchen Morgan shared with the New Mexico LESC that Colorado is using a system of youth-apprenticeship as a strategy to address two challenges currently facing the state:
- A shortage of skilled workers: Colorado businesses are spending a lot of money recruiting, hiring and training employees, especially in high-growth industries.
- A leaky educational pipeline: Of the total students starting high school in the state of Colorado:
- 23 percent are receiving a post-secondary degree.
- 18 percent are immediately entering employment in Colorado after obtaining a post-secondary degree.
CareerWise drew its inspiration from Switzerland’s Apprenticeship System (known as VET). Members of the LESC learned how CareerWise fits in the context of the national and international CTE landscape, with presentations from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Robert Schwartz and Jobs for the Future’s Amy Lloyd. Schwartz is an expert on the Swiss VET system, and co-founded the Pathways to Prosperity Network, a group of states that work to improve their career readiness policies.
This week’s programming on CTE is part of a series of technical assistance NCSL and the National Center on Education and the Economy are providing to the New Mexico LESC, aligned with the four elements of world class education systems outlined in "No Time to Lose," which are:
- Children come to school ready to learn, and extra support is given to struggling students so that all have the opportunity to achieve high standards.
- A world-class teaching profession supports a world-class instructional system, where every student has access to highly effective teachers and is expected to succeed.
- A highly effective, intellectually rigorous system of career and technical education is available to students preferring an applied education.
- Individual reforms are connected and aligned as part of a clearly planned and carefully designed comprehensive system.
The four components were selected after a bipartisan group of legislators and legislative staff spent two years studying the education systems of high performing countries.
Learn more about the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Apprenticeship Week.
Joellen Kralik is a policy specialist in NCSL’s education Program.