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Programs Prepare Students to Launch Careers in Adams County

High school career and technical courses help keep the region stocked with homegrown talent.

By Teree Caruthers on June 22, 2022

A student uses an angle grinder during a welding at the FutureForward campus in Adams County, CO.
Theo Stroomer

School districts in Adams County play a vital role in workforce development by offering a number of career and technical education (CTE) programs that introduce students to local, in-demand careers at a young age and help keep a pipeline of homegrown talent flowing to local businesses.

“Our career and technical education program is not only learning that is connected to career pathways, but it’s also responsive to industry trends and allows for real-world application of academics,” says Kristi Weaver, director of career and technical education & postsecondary readiness for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton.

Planning for the Future

Adams 12 Five Star works in tandem with the county’s other school districts to perform a biennial assessment of regional workforce needs and adjusts career pathways and curricula based on assessment results.

“This work brings to light current labor market needs as well as responsive goals and strategies for school districts to implement in order to better prepare students to enter the workforce,” Weaver says.

Current Region 3 goals are focused on progress toward improving equity, work-based learning, local workforce alignment, student performance, program size, scope, and quality and career development as well as recruitment, retention and training of faculty and staff.

Westminster Public Schools, for example, offers high school students courses in more than a dozen career pathways, including biomedical sciences, engineering, health care and ProStart culinary arts.

ProStart is the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s two-year cornerstone program. A virtual Future Center provides students with information about jobs and internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Industry partners mentor students, allow them to job shadow and sponsor work-based learning experiences.

The nursing program at Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Colorado
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Skills Players

The 27J School District in Brighton also works with local businesses to offer juniors and seniors work-based learning experiences. Students have interned with the City of Brighton and the Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce, among others. The district offers industry certifications in business, construction, automotive, health sciences and teaching pathways.

Students can also earn college credit through partnerships with University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State University Denver.

As part of a public-private partnership with Front Range Community College and the Construction Education Foundation of Colorado, Adams County School District 14 in Commerce City received a $2.1 million RISE grant from Colorado to expand its CTE courses in the construction fields. The district hopes the training will allow students to enter the workforce sooner and at a pay scale that will improve their quality of life.

Makaila Hernandez prepares a microscope during a CSI at the FutureForward at Washington Square career and technical education campus in Thornton, CO.
Theo Stroomer

Future Forward

Mapleton Public Schools begins career exploration for students in middle school through the CareerX program. Seventh and eighth graders choose from a number of career-based electives in areas such as culinary arts, STEM, forensic science and environmental studies.

The Adams 12 Five Star district also introduces students to local careers starting in middle school. The district hosts an Eighth Grade Career Expo each year as well as tours of the FutureForward high school campuses at Bollman and Washington Square.

“We want to make sure when they enter the workforce, they have all the tools to be successful.”

Marvin Lewis, FutureForward

The FutureForward campuses are designated career and technical education centers for students in grades 10-12. At the FutureForward at Washington Square campus, students spend two hours of each school day engaged in hands-on learning and can earn certifications in areas, including construction, welding, diesel technology, EMT, firefighting, crime scene investigation, law enforcement and sports medicine.

“All our teachers have industry experience, and we meet with businesses in our community twice a year to get input on what we’re teaching to make sure it’s current and relevant,” says Marvin Lewis, principal of FutureForward at Washington Square. “They also make sure the equipment the students are learning on is up to date. Some of our partners even offer job shadow and internships for our students.”

Lewis says in addition to industry-related skills, students learn workforce-required soft skills through resume building, mock interviews and practicing communication skills.

Nursing Knowledge

Front Range Community College has gained national accreditation in nursing from the Washington, D.C.-based Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The nursing program now offers one-year certificates, two-year associate degrees to become registered nurses, and four-year bachelor of science degrees in nursing. Even though FRCC is a two-year college, it offers the four-year BSN degrees to help fill a void of in-demand BSN nurses.

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