PSD to expand student apprenticeship opportunities 

Between classes at Colorado State University, Nic Schountz can be found changing oil or resealing a rear differential on a bus in the Poudre School District Transportation Department.  

Schountz started work as a student apprentice in PSD through CareerWise Colorado last year, when he was a senior at Rocky Mountain High School. Working as an apprentice has allowed him to learn new skills, earn money, and explore his options after graduation, all while doing what he loves to do every day. 

Am intern works on a PSD bus.

"It's been a phenomenal time," Schountz said about his experience as a student apprentice in PSD. "I've met some really cool people and I've learned an insane amount of things. It's giving me options because I don't know for sure exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life." 

He will complete his second year with the PSD Transportation Department this summer and receive a certificate of completion from the Colorado Department of Labor. He hopes to stay with PSD in a full-time position at least until he finishes college. 

An intern works on a PSD bus.

"They allow you to go to school as well as work and don't expect you to have the experience but still give you the possibility of bettering yourself," Schountz said. "I know several people who have really wished that they had done what I have done." 

PSD will soon expand its youth apprenticeship offerings from 12 positions to 20 thanks to a nearly half-million-dollar Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Grant award. The eight new apprenticeships will be in the district’s Transportation, Facility Services, and Information Technology departments.  

PSD Chief Technology Officer Bud Hunt said the IT team is excited to have the opportunity to support more students working and introduce them to the world of IT careers and opportunities. 

“While we regularly hire students to help us do work over the summer, this grant gives us the opportunity to invite more students into our work year-round, and to expand the opportunities we can make available,” said Hunt. “Making space for students to discover and chase their passions while doing real work that serves the Poudre School District community is a win-win for all. Our team is eager to get started!” 

The $475,999 RISE grant will help fund equipment purchases and development and implementation of four IT positions, two automotive tech apprenticeships, and two facility tech and maintenance crew apprenticeships for students. 

PSD was one of six RISE grant recipients announced in November 2023. The RISE Grant program launched in 2020; awards made in this fourth grant cycle focused on youth-based apprenticeship opportunities for high school students. Gov. Jared Polis allocated nearly $2 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief dollars to fund this grant cycle. 

Apprenticeships are an innovative way to help students gain experience, explore future careers before completing high school and expand their postsecondary options. But they are not the only work-based learning opportunity that offers real-world experience to PSD students. High school students in PSD can participate in career tours, internships, capstone projects or paid part-time work experiences. 

Sara Deshpande is a senior at Poudre Global Academy and currently participates in an internship. She is a part of the Clinical Laboratory Internship Program, which exposes student interns to diverse medical applications and technologies to assist in career planning. 

Deshpande said she is fascinated with the field and feels this internship will help her reach her future goals by allowing her to experience a different side of medicine. 

“Having this experience is valuable to me and other students in the district because it allows us to expand our connections and gain meaningful experience in the workplace,” said Deshpande. “I am grateful that I have so many new opportunities to help guide me in the future, and that I get to decide what I want to focus on as I pave my pathway.” 

The RISE Grant is just one resource supporting PSD students to graduate with options and helping them become future-ready with workforce skills. PSD also received several other grants this year to support work-based learning opportunities for students including: 

  • Behavioral Health Administration Grant 
    • PSD received $232,000 from the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration.
    •  This grant will fund teacher salaries for PSD to launch the behavioral health pathway at Futures Lab. 
    • The new pathway started this January and will prepare students to become peer support specialists and get their peer support specialist certification. 
  • Career Development Incentive Program 
    • PSD received $210,000. 
    • This CDE program provides financial incentives for school districts and charter schools that encourage high school students to complete apprenticeships, internships, and computer science Advanced Placement courses. 
    • Funds will support students earning industry certifications and participating in work-based learning experiences like internships and apprenticeships. 
  • Concurrent Enrollment Expansion and Innovation Grant 
    • PSD received $50,000 from the Colorado Department of Education for the CEEI Grant Program. 
    • This program provides grants to partnering local education providers and higher education institutions to expand concurrent enrollment opportunities.  
    • For PSD, the grant will be used to reimburse tuition for teachers so they can become credentialed to teach for Front Range Community College, allowing more opportunities for students to earn free college credits in high school. 
  • Financial Aid and FAFSA/CASFA Completion Grant 
    • PSD will receive $30 thousand over two years. 
    • This grant from the CDE provides training for counselors, family liaisons and finance teachers to help students and families complete their FASFA. 
    • This grant's overall goal is to increase the number of students for whom applications for free financial aid are completed.