CareerWise created a statewide youth apprenticeship model that coordinates the existing systems of industry and education that creates real, tangible benefit for both the employer and the apprentice. The net result is a workforce with the skills Colorado’s industry needs, and students have illuminated pathways to higher education and career.

Colorado Succeeds

The Salida School District’s building trades apprenticeship program, launched in 2015, enables students to work directly with local businesses to build affordable housing for local teachers. Students gain marketable, real-world skills while local industry builds a sustainable local talent pipeline. Through it all, they produce a vital resource for both the school district and the greater community. Just one year later, the Incentives for Industry Credentials bill and additional funding helped supercharge Salida’s building trades program, supporting a partnership with Colorado Mountain College that allows students to earn an industry-recognized credential. Colorado Succeeds championed this policy, which became law in 2016, to prepare more students for Colorado’s growing, middle-skill jobs. Colorado Succeeds hosted a workshop for 14 school districts, including Salida, to support them in leveraging the new law. Salida superintendent David Blackburn won $10,000 while presenting his idea for implementing the law locally. “I am literally out there pounding nails with kids. We need more capacity, someone who can help us credential kids and work with Colorado Mountain College to get the program going,” said Blackburn. His goal: To establish a strong, rooted program “that will live on beyond me.”

Techtonic Group Apprentices

With record low unemployment rates in Colorado, the competition for qualified tech talent is accelerating. That’s why Boulder-based Techtonic Group is taking an unusual path to prepare workers for a career in technology: apprenticeships. Long used for skilled trades, apprenticeships are proving to be an efficient, effective way to train software engineers, developers and other IT workers. 

Apprentices earn a salary while learning coding skills on the job -- and companies benefit from trained, motivated talent that works under the direction of experienced engineers/developers. Techtonic is focused on opportunities for women, people of color, economically disadvantaged individuals, veterans and others who have an aptitude for tech but may lack the resources for a traditional college education. The company, now officially part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s official apprentice network, integrates apprentices into its core team of developers, who work on software development projects for regional and national companies. 

When Kris Boccio, Zayo’s VP of Systems and GIS, was seeking resources for a project, learned about Techtonic and met CTO Kyle Brothis, he was all in. Kris moved up the ranks in telecom in a non-traditional way. He started out of high school in fiber optic network construction, working his way as splicer, project manager, area manager then eventually landing a fiber engineering role at AboveNet, which Zayo acquired in 2012. After a stint managing fiber inventory and long haul operations, he was promoted into his current position. “People with aptitude and the right mentorship can do great things,” he said. 

Earlier this week, Kris engaged Techtonic to tackle the project that requires JavaScript coding to enhance Zayo’s maps, which provide real-time access to detailed, global fiber route maps. The maps are central to a positive customer experience on Zayo’s interactive e-commerce platform Tranzact. The project team will include a Techtonic-trained developer under the supervision of a more seasoned team lead. 

“I’m excited about moving forward with Techtonic and providing the developer with the opportunity to both learn and contribute,” Kris said. “There are many ways to acquire skills and develop talent, and I applaud Techtonic’s innovative approach.”