Colorado CAREERS Program: Apprenticeships for Highly-Skilled Refugees

Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, CO, has worked with the Colorado Refugee Services Program (CRSP) to develop Career Aligned Refugee Education and Employment Readiness Services (CAREERS), a program for highly skilled refugees. It includes promoting apprenticeships and other career pathway opportunities.

 

CAREERS Program Setup

The CAREERS program began in October 2017, with funding through the CRSP office. Individualized career plans for each participant are developed by assessing the client’s English level and making personalized recommendations based on his or her interests. Recommendations might include:

  • Short-Term Occupation Training Programs (STOT)
  • Transitional field-specific courses
  • On-the-Job training opportunities
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Longer-term options such as entrance into a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program

 

Making the Most of Apprenticeships

When CAREERS program participants are referred to apprenticeships, Emily Griffith Technical College connects students with businesses offering “learn while you earn” programs. Emily Griffith Technical College serves as the intermediary, providing support to companies and their apprentices by completing the administrative paperwork and providing college credit for the educational component of the work experience. While most apprenticeships require evidence of high school education, Emily Griffith Technical College has worked with some businesses to waive the requirement (this may not possible if a trade Union is involved).

“The advantage of an apprenticeship is to be in the workplace immediately, doing something that is meaningful for a career,” said Heather Colwell, an Emily Griffith Technical College Language Learning Center Student Navigator. “With apprenticeships, refugees get paid while working towards a better future. It’s really about meaningful work and a pathway that helps them meet their goals.”

Emily Griffith Technical College reports that refugees need more explanation about the apprenticeship time commitment and the competitive salaries that can be achieved relative to alternatives. “While an apprentice might start at just $15 an hour, wages often increase throughout an apprenticeship,” says Heather Colwell, Emily Griffith Technical College Student Navigator.

Another benefit which is sometimes missed when clients consider apprenticeships versus traditional educational programs is the comparative cost savings. In Colorado, refugees have access to higher education upon arrival; however, if they enroll in college before being considered in-state residents, they have to pay higher non-resident costs. Apprenticeships through Emily Griffith Technical College allow newcomers to start learning in-demand skills while earning an income AND saving on tuition fees.

 

Early Successes

While the CAREERS program is relatively new, the initial successes look promising. One refugee participant in an Emily Griffith Technical College apprenticeship program, whose background is in engineering, recently started a four-year sheet metal apprenticeship program making $16 an hour.

“Apprenticeships can fill a need for these high-skilled professionals,” said Tiffany Jaramillo, Emily Griffith Technical College Pathway Navigator.

 

Have you successfully referred clients to apprenticeship programs? If so, share your story with us at informaton@higheradvantage.org.

 

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