Colorado’s New Workforce Development Package

Last year, a group of eight workforce development bills was passed into law with bipartisan support in the Colorado legislature. The idea behind the effort was to connect businesses and education more closely so that students could find jobs in specific fields, whether through better training or outreach to private companies.

The question the legislators were trying to answer was, essentially, How do we stream more high-school and college graduates into the Colorado workforce, especially in fields where they are desperately needed, like technology?

Last month, a 10-bill package was introduced that focused on getting businesses even more involved in the process and added aid for careers not specifically addressed in last year’s version.

“We can’t simply be consumers of the education system. We have to partner with them and be creators,” said Noel Ginsburg, chairman and CEO of InterTech Plastics of Denver, explaining his support as a business owner for the new measures. “This system will be a key to addressing income inequality in this country.”

Highlights of the new package include:

* giving schools the resources they need to develop computer science curricula

* studying ways to increase the number of apprenticeships at private companies

* further developing a program that provides training to those collecting government assistance

* requiring the CO Department of Education to work in concert with the community college system to align initiatives around workforce readiness

* instituting a pilot program that gives bonuses to schools when students earn industry certification for in-demand jobs or complete an AP computer science class

* offering tax credits up to $5,000 per person to companies that provide apprenticeships

* creating a matching grant program that assists industry associations in partnering with schools to define industry competencies and facilitate training/education in those areas

* modifying the process for electricians’ license renewals through continuing education

* streamlining mental-health licensure processes

* aligning state law with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Business leaders who supported the initiative to shore up the state’s workforce are eager to see results. So far, the measures passed last year haven’t resulted in getting better trained workers into specific companies, but the program is underway.

Some of the workers needed to get the initial programs set up and running have been hired and the hope is that it will be fully operational in the next few months. And it’s heartening to see bipartisan support for this year’s package that piggybacks on last year’s efforts.

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