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Talent is Top-Tier in Castle Rock, CO 

Arapahoe Community College keeps talent flowing to the Castle Rock region's top industries. 

By Teree Caruthers on August 13, 2022

Castle Rock, CO: Students from Arapahoe Community College
Photo Courtesy of Arapahoe Community College

Castle Rock’s economic development strategy is predicated on the ability of businesses to recruit and retain highly skilled talent, and a significant player in that effort is Arapahoe Community College (ACC).

The college, which has a Castle Rock location at the Sturm Collaboration Campus, offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs in high-demand areas.


Apprentices in the last four years via the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program

A Needs-Based Approach

“Arapahoe Community College plays a huge role in the region’s workforce development efforts because we closely partner with our workforce center, K-12 partners, four-year university partners and, most importantly, industry to form a cohesive talent pipeline ecosystem for the region,” says Eric Dunker, vice president of workforce and economic development for ACC.

More than 90% of ACC students stay in Colorado after graduation. Dunker says more than a third of the college’s 12,000 students matriculate toward specific career paths that align directly with the region’s growing industries, such as health care, technology, finance, advanced manufacturing and aerospace. For example, programs, including cybersecurity, secure software development and advanced robotics and automation, feed directly into the aerospace industry – the region’s second-largest private sector employer behind health care.

“We have several key partnerships with companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and others that have demonstrated needs for strong entry and mid-level talent,” Dunker says. “During this period of ‘Great Resignation,’ the demand for skilled talent has never been greater. We are in constant communication with these companies and our workforce center partners to understand the high-demand jobs in our region.”

Work-Based Learning

Formal apprenticeships in areas such as medical assistants and water operators connect students with high-demand jobs in the region. The apprenticeships range in duration from six months to two years and offer students job connections, nationally recognized credentials and higher wages. The college also provides a software development boot camp with an 80% job placement rate.

“Through our apprenticeship program, students learn technical skills but, most importantly, they learn those necessary soft skills like teamwork, critical thinking, project management and customer service,” Dunker says. “By combining those hard and soft skills, students are more prepared to directly enter the workforce.”

For example, the medical assistant apprenticeship program has served more than 130 apprentices in the last four years, combining technical skills with soft skills. Dunker says that ACC has experienced more than an 87% retention rate with Centura Health and equitable graduation rates with respect to diversity. Sixty-five percent of apprentices are students of color.

Castle Rock, CO: Students and teachers gather around computers at a round table at Arapahoe Community College
Arapahoe Community College

Bridging the Medical Workforce Gap

Like most communities across the country, Castle Rock faces a shortage of health care workers – a problem exacerbated by the pandemic. To help stave off a crisis, ACC and the Community College of Denver, in partnership with Centura Health, HealthONE and DaVita, were awarded a $2 million grant through ZOMALAB’s SyncUp Colorado Workforce Design Challenge to develop and implement the Colorado Health Careers Collaborative. 

The Colorado Health Careers Collaborative aims to scale interest in young-adult populations through an innovative approach to job-shadowing and pre-apprenticeships targeted to diverse urban and rural students who may have not otherwise thought about a career in health care.

The six-week summer program introduces students ages 16 to 24 to more than 10 different health care career pathways. In addition, students receive HIPAA training, complete BLS certification and learn soft skills, such as resume development.

“During this period of ‘Great Resignation,’ the demand for skilled talent has never been greater.”

Eric Dunker, Arapahoe Community College

Jaime Pearson, talent partnership consultant for Centura Health, a partner in the Colorado Health Careers Collaborative, says the program will bring awareness to the many career opportunities in the health care field.

“So often, people think of health care workers as doctors and nurses, who are incredible and without whom the work we do wouldn’t be possible, but there are so many other people who also play invaluable roles in the health care system,” Pearson says.

This collaborative program is designed to ensure students are set up for success as they enter the workforce.

“It’s been a huge team effort to bring this to fruition,” Pearson says. “We’re incredibly excited to partner with ACC and CCD, along with DaVita and HealthONE, to ensure we’re providing the next generation of health care workers with all the adequate tools in their toolbox so they can go out and pursue whatever pathway is most interesting to them.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Castle Rock area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Castle Rock, CO

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