pueblo ccPueblo Community College offers students the opportunity to learn real-life work skills — and earn a paycheck — while also working toward their degree.

The school offers apprenticeship programs with three employers, allowing companies to provide on-the-job training that develops highly skilled workers.

“The program really has an impact on both the employer and the student in the apprenticeship program,” said Amanda Corum, executive director of PCC’s Pueblo Corporate College. “It’s an opportunity for employers to grow their own workers, and that cuts down on attrition. It’s about a 20 percent attrition rate compared to 80 percent for a journeyman that comes to their business.

“For participants, it gives them an opportunity to earn a living wage while getting an education. It pairs book learning with hands-on skills, and they get to learn from people in the industry with years of experience, so it’s invaluable.”

The four-year apprenticeship program works with three employers: Evraz North American steel mill in Pueblo; Qualtek Manufacturing in Colorado Springs and;  Pewag chain company in Pueblo.

“We’ve been doing the apprenticeship programs since 2005,” Corum said. “We’ve had as many as 70 students at one time involved.”

- Advertisement -

An addition last fall to PCC’s already extensive list of trade programs is the Manufacturing Production Technician certificate — a 16-week program, 30 percent of which is completed online, that provides students with the skills to take the first step toward working in a manufacturing environment.

The program covers manufacturing communication and teamwork, manufacturing processes, safety manufacturing environment, print reading manufacturing, technical math and introduction to welding/machining/industrial maintenance.

It not only introduces students to various trades and workplace requirements, it focuses on the soft skills so many employers are seeking, such as leadership, emotional intelligence and communication.

A production technician certificate will enable students to get a foot in the door and perhaps inspire them to enroll in a two-year degree or certificate program.

The federal government is also concerned about providing young adults with skilled jobs.

According to a recent release from the White House Press Office:

  • There are 6 million vacant jobs in the U.S. — the highest number since 1980.
  • The average, student loan debt for those graduating in 2016 was more than $30,000.
  • The total student loan debt in the U.S. is more than $1.4 trillion.
  • Despite the huge financial investment made by students, only 11 percent of employers strongly agree that these college graduates are being taught the skills that American companies need.

To combat this widening skills gap, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June to expand apprenticeships and improve job-training programs — a move aimed at getting workers into programs that lead to good incomes without the burden of student load debt.

On June 22, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, also known as the Perkins Act. The bill offers reforms designed to better help young Americans enter the workforce with the tools and knowledge necessary to compete for the 21st century’s high-skill, in-demand jobs. The bill now moves to the Senate for approval.

Corum would welcome more help for students and young adults entering the workforce.

“That would help tremendously, especially with apprenticeship programs,” she said. “Colorado is doing a good job, but the major challenge is resources to move it forward.”

For more information about the MPT program, call Rachel Brown, PCC’s CHAMP (Colorado Helps Advanced Manufacturing Program) Navigator, at 719-549-3157/719-568-2165, or email rachel.brown@pueblocc.edu.

For information about PCC’s apprenticeship programs, contact Amanda Corum at 719-549-3163/719-240-3351 or amanda.corum@pueblocc.edu.