Non-Degree Apprenticeships Open Doors for High School Graduates

jill carstens

A few months ago I wrote about college-alternatives for high school graduates.  There is a growing number of young people opting to either substantially delay going to college or not going at all. Let’s look at the many opportunities available for this population.

 During pandemic times when home has been translated to include the base for work, school, entertainment, substitute restaurant as well as our place to rest, the demand for trades like electricians and HVAC has had a huge increase. In November 2020, a report provided by HomeAdvisor, a website that provides such services, stated that these trades not only pay well, but offer a high job satisfaction.

 The report goes on to say, “The typical company recruiting in this sector isn’t looking for someone who went to some fancy school with pre-existing relationships. Overwhelmingly, what companies are looking for is as simple as someone with a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and a desire to learn.”

Colorado Succeeds (, a non-profit aiming to ensure that all Colorado students are educated to their highest potential, is providing many schools with the networking necessary to connect students with work-learn opportunities that lead to employment after high school graduation.

 There are many opportunities out there, but it takes a bit of sifting.  The Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment provides a large list of high-quality, registered apprenticeships, listed with application guidelines and links at:

 The Colorado Sheet Metal Workers Apprentice Program, headquartered in North Denver, confirms their organization provides immediate job placement with good paying apprenticeships involved with metal fabrication associated with architectural projects, HVAC, residential projects, and computer-aided drafting.  Salaries increase as your training progresses and can get as high as six figures.

 If the young adult in your life would rather not engage in a trade, there are a growing number of organizations that provide training and apprenticeships in software development. I mentioned Google’s program last December in my column, but we have a local recruiter, Techtonic, based in Boulder, offering paid internships with no experience or degree required to start. Their CEO, Nicole Craine added that they are proud to serve a diverse population of apprentices and that 31% are female, well over the 7.5% national average for the field. Their website encourages those with no tech backgrounds to apply, as they find that these students approach the subject with a “fresh start and no bad habits yet!” says Craine.  “This also creates a very level playing field for class, with each participant being valued for their different perspectives.” Also, similar to the trades apprenticeships, the primary qualities they look for are aptitude and willingness to learn.

For young adults with a more creative career in mind, The Center for Visual Art, part of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, offers a paid internship for high school students offering a look at careers in the arts. They provide interaction with creative professionals and opportunities to develop the skills needed to go into these fields. Artistic ability is not a part of their acceptance process. They look for applicants who are engaged, curious, collaborative, and interested in exploring what they want to do with their future. See their website for more information:

Additionally, I discovered that CVS provides training for pharmaceutical assistants and the Secret Service even puts on a retreat in the summer as a gateway to law enforcement and investigative fields.

One way or the other, it is becoming clear that a full four-year college education is not the only way to a good paying and fulfilling career. There are many paths.

Jill Carstens is a proud Denver native, a passionate mom and a teacher her entire adult life! She picked North Denver as her home base in 1997, and has run Milestones Preschool here since 2011. If you have ideas for an article or further questions for Miss Jill, you can email her at


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