Like many Colorado mountain communities, affordable housing in Salida is challenging to find, especially for local educators. The Salida School District, in close partnership with local businesses and the community college, took matters into their own hands.

The Salida School District’s building trades apprenticeship program, launched in 2015, enables students to work directly with local businesses to build affordable housing for local teachers. Students gain marketable, real-world skills while local industry builds a sustainable local talent pipeline. Through it all, they produce a vital resource for both the school district and the greater community.

Just one year later, the Career Success Program and additional funding helped supercharge Salida’s building trades program, supporting a partnership with Colorado Mountain College that allows students to earn an industry-recognized credential. Colorado Succeeds championed this policy, which became law in 2016, to prepare more students for Colorado’s growing, middle-skill jobs.

Colorado Succeeds hosted a workshop for 14 school districts, including Salida, to support them in leveraging the new law. Salida superintendent David Blackburn won $10,000 while presenting his idea for implementing the law locally. “I am literally out there pounding nails with kids. We need more capacity, someone who can help us credential kids and work with Colorado Mountain College to get the program going,” said Blackburn. His goal: To establish a strong, rooted program “that will live on beyond me.”

The building trades program is just one of Salida’s many forward-thinking work-based learning opportunities. From a community garden to a drone piloting program, the district has proven to be a leader in collaborating with the local business community to design learning experiences that benefit the entire community.

As Superintendent Blackburn said of their building trades program, “All of a sudden school is relevant to them, it’s meaningful to them. … “When I go out there and talk to the kids it’s their building, not my building and I love that.”

If you have questions or want to get involved, contact us at

By Jamie Trafficanda
Manager of Communications and Programs, Colorado Succeeds