Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visits MSU Denver
Federal program is christened to provide $113 million to expand diversity in apprenticeships.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited Metropolitan State University of Denver on Wednesday to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role apprenticeships play in advancing student learning and economic opportunity.
Walsh’s appearance coincided with the Labor Department’s announcement of a new grant program that will invest $113 million to grow diversity in registered apprenticeships.
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Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado’s U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet joined Walsh to ask questions and learn the value of apprenticeships from students’ points of view.
“President Biden sent me here purposely,” Walsh said, “because of the work that Sen. Bennet and Sen. Hickenlooper have done in creating pathways and opportunities for us to make further investments in the Department of Labor.”
The Labor Department’s new Apprenticeship Building America grant program will provide $113 million in grant funding, of which $50 million will support partnerships aimed at increasing enrollment in apprenticeship programs such as the ones available at MSU Denver.
“If you think about the opportunities that we honestly have here in this country to do some amazing things, these grants are going to be very powerful tools in working with partnerships that we see here today,” Walsh said.
Students on the panel discussed how their apprenticeships have helped them land job offers and explore new careers. Students Karen Rosas and Roman Anker represented MSU Denver on the panel.
Despite their varying experiences, all of the students on the panel agreed that apprenticeships helped them gain a better understanding of their career fields. They found real value in taking their educational experiences outside the classroom.
Anker, who’s majoring in Advanced Manufacturing with a concentration in Aerospace, said his apprenticeship solidified his career path. What started as an apprenticeship at Lockheed Martin has turned into a full-time job offer after he graduates.
“Coming into the apprenticeship program, I knew I wanted to work in aerospace,” Anker said. “My apprenticeship at Lockheed really helped me propel my career, which is what I was hoping for originally.”
Anker said he’s always wanted to end up at Lockheed Martin, so having the opportunity so early in his career “is really such a privilege.”
For Rosas, apprenticeships have helped her gain a better understanding of where she didn’t want her career to go. Rosas pays for her education herself and appreciates the opportunity to make informed decisions about her investment. She has pursued apprenticeships in paralegal studies, optometry and dietetics, learning through firsthand experience that those fields weren’t the right fit for her. Now, she’s finishing her degree in Early Childhood Education.
“As I get older, I realize I need to be a leader in order to be a teacher,” Rosas said. “Being a teaching assistant and having these internships has led me to having better conversations, getting along with other people better and understanding them on a deeper level.”
Many MSU Denver students balance work, home and school. Taking on an apprenticeship isn’t always easy, but Anker says it can lead to better opportunities in the long run, just as Walsh believes that apprenticeships will lead to a more equitable pathway to the middle class.
“You’re going the extra mile and showing you’re invested in preparing yourself to be a good employee,” Walsh said. “So even though it can seem like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel sometimes, definitely keep applying because somebody out there is going to give you that opportunity.”