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Advocating for Youth Apprenticeship on the National Stage

By Mary Knight | Communications Specialist, CareerWise USA

Published from CareerWise Colorado.

Last month, CareerWise took to the national stage to advocate for the expansion of youth apprenticeship and share first hand its successes with implementing its model in communities across the country.

Noel Ginsburg, CareerWise founder and CEO, and Naarai Navarro, a CareerWise apprenticeship alumni, testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee) as part of the “Getting America Ready to Work – Successful on the job, apprenticeship training programs to help workers and businesses get ready to work” hearing. 

Navarro was an apprentice with Pinnacol Assurance in the marketing and claims department. She shared how the unique, work-based learning experience of apprenticeship opened doors to career and education pathways she wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to pursue.

A Denver native, Navarro was hesitant to pursue higher education post-high school as she didn’t have a clear idea of what she was passionate about and didn’t take the financial investment of college lightly. She began exploring work-based learning experiences, such as a welding class, an internship and after a recommendation from her school counselor, Suzie, decided to pursue a CareerWise apprenticeship with Pinnacol in her junior year.

“I need to say a big thank you to her because I would not have tried an apprenticeship and I would not be here today without her,” said Navarro.

About five percent of Pinnacol’s workforce is made up of youth apprentices, something that Navarro believes really spurred her professional growth during her apprenticeship journey. She had many other young people to learn alongside, providing her with a built-in support system from her peers as well as the professionals she was being mentored by.

Upon completion of her apprenticeship, Navarro was hired by Pinnacol as a full-time employee with Pinnacol as a business development representative.

“A lot of people my age don’t feel like they have options, but because of my apprenticeship I do have options,” said Navarro. “Because of my apprenticeship I have experience, confidence, a career path and the ability to provide for myself.”

In the future, Navarro hopes to pursue a university degree, since her employer will help support her with tuition assistance, making the investment more affordable. 

Following her testimony, Navarro answered questions from the committee members with such ease and poise, demonstrating her strong communication skills that are beyond most her age. This prompted Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) to note during the question and answer session, “Ms. Navarro, I think you are a good organizer.”

“I want this committee to know that my apprenticeship has changed my life,” said Navarro. “Having the opportunity to work and be trained while still in high school has given me the confidence and professionalism to succeed in whatever I want to do.”

A full recording of the hearing is available to watch on the HELP Committee’s website.