Apprenticeship program offers college alternative for MT high school graduates

Posted at 6:25 AM, Aug 27, 2018

BOZEMAN – Libertas, a year-long apprentice program, plans to expand as more students shy away from a college degree.

The Libertas program is targeted at young adults and works at teaching them fundamental life skills including time management, self-care, and finding a direction for their future.

Once students find an area of expertise they are interested in, they are paired one-on-one with an apprentice in the field to complete their training.

“The program is for young people who don’t want to go to college, kids that want to go to college but don’t feel ready,” said founder Paul Durham. “They want to take a gap year. And anybody really that want’s to transform out of work that maybe they are doing that they don’t like into a career they really love.”

It was first started when Durham was contacted by his friend Rob Irizarry about concerns for his son Kaito who struggled with adapting to college.

“You know, that year of college,” said Kaito. “It got me really into this downward spiral of, you know, alcohol, drugs, depression. A really bad situation for me and I need to get out of that situation.”

Wanting to help, Durham said he used his background as a musician to mentor Kaito on the music industry. During his Libertas experience, he said got to learn how to get his life on track and learn new skills like creating an action plan and a budget.

“I would say the program is going to get you 50-60% of the way there,” said Kaito. “You are gonna be given all the tools you need to accomplish whatever it is you want but the real secret to that equation is how much work are you going to do.”

After the program, he attended HATCH, a global network conference, where he was mentored by the famous composer and cellist Philip Sheppard. Irizarry now is working as a music manager in Los Angeles.

Durham said as time has passed, what started with half a dozen students has grown close to two dozen over the years. He said the next step is opening it up to more people.

“What has been missing from the one-on-one program is the sense of community among the students because they are kind of trailblazers. You know, they are doing something different from their friends. Their friends are getting jobs and going to college; this is the kind of thing where they need support,” said Durham.

He plans to create that support by allowing two types of programs for students. For the students that are from around the country, most of the program will be online. But local attendees will attend class once a week at the White Chapel, right behind the Roost and Safron Table.

Durham said the program is not limited to any type of field. Students just have to share what field they are interested in and he will try to find a fit.

“Anything under the sun. You know, you could be a ceramicist, work with a musician, work with small, high-tech manufacturing. You know when you look around there are many, many small business people who are doing very interesting things,” said Durham.

Students enrolled in the program will start in September.