Central Grad first to complete Vestas Apprentice Program
Teacher William Alexander had just taken over the Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathway at Greeley Central High School when an enthusiastic young student slapped her hand on his desk and said she wanted to join the apprenticeship program at Vestas Blades Americas in Windsor.
“I didn’t even know what she was talking about,” Alexander says with a laugh. “I was brand new. But she knew what it was and that was what she wanted.”
That ambitious student was Raquel Gonzales, who on November 19 became the first Greeley-Evans School District 6 student to complete the registered youth apprenticeship program in advanced manufacturing. She completed 2,000 hours working and training at Vestas the week of November 14, which coincided with National Apprenticeship Week. Raquel also had to complete 144 hours of related classroom instruction to complete the internship.
Raquel, her family and her teachers were all honored at a luncheon Friday at the District 6 Administration Building, where she was presented with the official certificate marking her completion of the program.
"I just really loved the idea of working in manufacturing," she said. "It's a big girl job."
Raquel started the apprenticeship program with Vestas in June 2021. Her mother moved back to her home town of Garden City, Kansas during Raquel’s senior year of high school. So she moved in with her boyfriend and supported herself, working nights at Vestas from 6 to 10:30 p.m., then getting up to be at school by 8 a.m., where she had classes most of the day.
“I would come home and do some homework, and try to get to bed by midnight,” Raquel said. “School was my priority. I had to set myself up for success.”
Raquel graduated from Greeley Central in May 2022, and went to work for Vestas full time. Raquel spent two months in Denmark recently working and training with Vestas at its headquarters. She is currently completing her Applied Science associate degree at Aims Community College and hopes to enroll at Colorado State University in the College of Engineering.
Although she admits her journey has been difficult at times, she loves working for Vestas and being financially independent. She said having three younger sisters has motivated her to be an example for them to follow.
“I really do it for my little sisters,” Raquel said. “I want them to know they can be anything they want to be.”
Raquel is one of very few women who work in manufacturing at Vestas. While that has been challenging at times, she said she works hard and has gained the respect of her mostly male coworkers.
“It helped push me outside of my comfort zone,” Raquel said. “I love to get dirty and I love the work.”
When asked who was her inspiration to pursue and complete the rigorous apprenticeship program at Vestas wind blade manufacturing plant, Raquel pauses for a few seconds, and then says with confidence, "I was the inspiration. I did it for me."
"I am so proud of myself," she said, smiling. "I am buying myself a big, beautiful truck."