ACEC Building Career Pathways in Manufacturing

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” baseball great Yogi Berra once said.

Perhaps nowhere is his humorous quote more relevant than in the world of manufacturing.  While once upon a time, manufacturing involved making things by hand, or later on an assembly line, this industry is now better defined by advances in 3-D printing, human-robot interactions, and extreme customization.

In Colorado today, nearly 6,000 manufacturing companies across a variety of business sectors such as electronics, energy, aerospace, biomedical, and food and beverage are building and selling products using new technologies.


Colorado employs 144,000 people in the manufacturing industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and this number is expected to grow exponentially in the decade ahead.  More importantly, there are 15,000 jobs currently available in Colorado for workers in manufacturing such as mold makers, machinists, mechanical engineers, and quality assurance specialists.  People in occupations like these can expect to make $71,000 a year and more.

But how do students go about exploring this field to see if it is right for them?

ACEC offers numerous career exploration activities that are helping our youth gain interest, knowledge, and skills to move forward in their careers.

ACEC has three cornerstone events that engage businesses to promote careers in their industry. Manufacturers are represented at our Career Expo event, which is attended by nearly 5,800 8th grade students from across Adams County; at our E9to5 job shadow program for high school students; and at our Backpacks to Briefcases event that matches business mentors with a table of seven students to discuss the facilitator’s personal career journey as well as the students’ career interests.

In addition, ACEC is the convener of the Metro Manufacturing Partnership’s Youth Pipeline Taskforce, which includes educators, manufacturing representatives, and public sector agencies. Through the Taskforce, we have worked to:

  • Expose counselors and teachers to modern manufacturing (while earning professional development credit) so they may accurately inform students about potential careers
  • Identify pathways for students to explore and enter careers in the industry
  • Identify skills needed by manufacturers

ACEC has also been active in having manufacturers “adopt” a high school to provide opportunities for students to meet manufacturing professionals at their school and influence school curriculum.  We promote apprenticeship fairs held at schools in our districts, as well as set up apprenticeship opportunities for youth at metro area manufacturing sites.  Finally, we have enhanced awareness of manufacturing summer camps such as Project DIY, an advanced manufacturing camp for Denver high school girls held at Community College of Denver. There,  students gain hands-on experience in engineering graphics/CAD, welding, and architecture.

If your organization would like to explore more job shadow/internship/apprenticeship opportunities, we can help!   We are looking to continue to expand and diversify our programs and services in this area in the months ahead.  For more information on ACEC’s other career exploration and pathway programs, please visit