Career exploration will be a lot more than just an after-school activity for high school students in the Roaring Fork Valley when classes start back up next week.
The Carbondale-based nonprofit Youth Entity has launched its new Career Academy and YE University, offering hands-on training in the culinary arts and hospitality management, as well as structure design and the building industry.
The courses last the entire school year instead of a single semester, allowing participating students to earn more credits toward graduation, said Meghan Grabow, director of brand and enterprise development for the organization.
“We have offered credits before, but it was limited,” she said. “Now, the students will have an opportunity to receive more credits with the longer duration and more of a focus on the business side.”
Classes are to be held during school hours rather than after school, and are open to high school juniors and seniors (sophomores by exception) who complete the program application and get approval from their school to participate.
Support for the expanded programs comes from a $40,000 Aspen Community Foundation Cradle to Career Giving Network grant. Youth Entity has hired Peter Barclay, formerly with the Aspen Community Fund, to direct the new program.
In addition to its career studies for high school students, Youth Entity offers financial literacy programs to grade school students through its My Career, My Life programs for elementary and middle schoolers.
The new Career Academy/YE University, in addition to providing hands-on learning in the culinary and design-build trades, also rolls in management training and some basic best-business practices, Grabow said.
“Students will take a course on workplace communication … how to write an effective email and the importance of those small communications, or how to look for a job that pertains to your interests and skills.”
The culinary arts program will continue to encompass the ProStart and YouthChefs programs.
“But we also want it to be more expansive on the hospitality business side,” Grabow said. “… what it takes be a front desk manager at a hotel, and how to run a restaurant on the business side of it.”
Same for the construction trades where, in addition to hands-on design and building, students be taught how to run the business side, she said.
The culinary classes are taught at Youth Entity’s commercial kitchen facility in the Bridges Center in Carbondale. Gould Construction and Gallegos Corporation support the design and building courses.
The programs are expected to expand from 23 high school students last year to around 30 this year, Grabow also said.
“Career Academy is result of months of work in developing a more immersive career exploration experience for teens who are on the cusp of entering independent adulthood,” Kirsten Petre McDaniel, executive director for Youth Entity, said in a recent press release.
“We recognized a need for a year-long program to really engage kids and provide all the experiences and hands-on learning necessary to get them thinking and help answer the question, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’”
Both tracks are to include field trips for the students to visit relevant businesses in the valley.
“Representing industries in the Roaring Fork Valley is important to us,” Barclay said in the press release. “We hope to help kids find industries in our area that meet their interests while simultaneously preparing the future workforce for valley employers.”