Last month, Colorado Governor Jared Polis visited FRCC’s Westminster Campus to hear students discuss their experience with apprenticeships, internships, and other work-based learning programs. Eleven students attended the event, each voicing their experiences with work-based learning, discussing both the benefits of being in an internship, and areas where they felt the experience of work-based learning could be improved.
One area where students praised the State and FRCC was the Care Forward and Career Advance Colorado programs, under which students can have their tuition paid by the state, and get a certificate in one of a few high-demand industries. “[The program] is amazing, otherwise I would not be here,” Crystal Cruz, an FRCC student in training to be a pharmacy tech, said. “Just a huge impact, there.”
According to Rebecca Woulfe, Vice President of Academic Affairs, “Over the last year, almost 1,000 students have received Care Forward Colorado funding through Front Range Community College. And already this semester, more than 1,500 students are enrolled for our no-cost programs that are covered by both Career Advance and Care Forward Colorado.”
Students also discussed the benefits of being able to ‘dip their toes’ into a field, so they can know for sure whether or not they want to work in it. “For me personally, being able to do an internship with whichever field is chosen really solidified what I’m gonna do for my career moving forward,” Laura Pardee, an FRCC student working to become a Forestry Technician, said. “[It] really allows you to say, ‘yes, not only do I like what I’m learning, but I actually really enjoy the work as well.”
Another student, Sarah Enochson, studying in FRCC’s Graphic Design program, reported a similar experience with the opposite outcome. “Not to say anything bad about the company I work for – I think they’re wonderful, and I’m still going to do some work for them, but I have no interest in cybersecurity,” Enochson said, “I learned that.”
Yet another benefit cited by one former student, Bennet Gaibler, who studied surgical tech and is now working at UCHealth, was the ability to work and learn alongside people of a similar skill level to you. “At my hospital alone, I have four people from the same program that I graduated from, and it’s fun working with them because they’re at the same level of experience that I’m at.”
After hearing some of the experiences students had, Governor Polis described the changes that his administration is looking at getting through, “From the business side, we have some Opportunity Now grants,” Polis said. “So we’re kind of supporting apprenticeships [with that], and then we’re gonna do an apprenticeship tax credit. … and we’re trying to, just culturally, build this into the fabric of who we are.
Sarah Enochson raised the concern that students without work-study don’t have access to as many paid positions, “The paid position I’m in requires you to have work-study, and what if you don’t have work-study? I would love to see everyone have the same opportunities. But having that be a paid position is everything, it means I’m not doing something else that doesn’t apply to my future.”
One significant issue raised by a number of students was the number of classes available for students to take.
“For my surgical tech program, I got waitlisted three years in a row, and COVID also did not help with that,” Bennet Gaibler said. “It definitely was unfortunate because I took extra credits to be able to do priority registration, and every day at 9:00AM [I was] automatically waitlisted.”
“I have one class that I planned to take that was part of my [program], but they only offer it at a campus that I can’t commute to consistently,” Brandie McGee, a student within the Multimedia and Graphic Design program, said. “So having a little bit more redundancy, a little bit more options for people seeking a particular class that they need.”
“It sounds like there’s a lot of demand for courses, and obviously you can only offer courses where you have the faculty,” Polis said. “Definitely, the jobs are there, so it’s just a question of how we can allow more spots and have more sections as needed, that sort of thing.”
Photos by Alex Ziemek