Colorado Ready to Work 2.0

Last year, the General Assembly passed a bipartisan package of legislation called “Colorado Ready to Work.” These bills focused on education, training and outreach to make sure our workforce aligns with the jobs that our growing economy is producing.

We’re back at it this session. Last week, we introduced another 10-bill package—Colorado Ready to Work 2.0—that will create additional opportunities for employers and employees to succeed.

The focus of this year’s package is to encourage businesses to become more involved in the process of equipping Coloradans with the skills and training to step into good-paying jobs that are available but not being filled. We hope that more Colorado companies will take a larger role in the development of the next generation of workers in collaboration with K-12 schools, higher education and labor. The best way to increase wages is to ensure job seekers have marketable skills for Colorado’s top industries. We have companies that must seek employees from outside the state because not enough Coloradans have the right set of qualifications. It’s time for us to work with all stakeholders to change that and forge new partnerships.

I’m especially excited about our bill to update standards for the teaching of computer science and digital literacy in our K-12 public schools and provide incentives to teachers to get the training they need. Today, Colorado has more than 16,000 open computing jobs, yet only one in four Colorado high schools teach computer programming. The average salary for one of these jobs is $92,000.

And we’re not forgetting about those who are often the most difficult to employ, or who have been in the workforce for years but need new skills. Another effort reauthorizes ReHire Colorado, a bill that I was the prime sponsor of in 2013, which has effectively moved people from welfare to work through training and job placement for veterans and seniors. Extending ReHire Colorado until 2022 will help approximately 3,000 additional Coloradans find permanent employment.

Every one of these bills has strong bipartisan support. That’s as it should be. A thriving economy is not just a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It’s a Colorado priority.

Here’s a complete list of the bills introduced:

Industry infrastructure grant program HB16-1288 (Kraft-Tharp/Tate): Works toward a system in which businesses are engaged in the education system as centers of learning and drivers of career-focused education content. Creates a matching grant program within the Colorado Workforce Development Council to assist industry associations to define industry competencies and collaborate to facilitate training and education in the classroom and the workplace.

Computer science and digital literacy HB16-1291 (Lontine & Duran/Hill & Johnston): Directs the Department of Education to update content standards to include tech skills and creates a voluntary resource bank for schools and districts that want to start or expand computer science programs for students. Also creates a grant program for public school teachers in Colorado to pursue additional education that will enable them to teach computer science courses. Colorado public schools have standards in 10 content areas, but the current system lacks guidance for technology and computer science.

Incentives for student success HB16-1289 (Esgar & Duran/Crowder & Garcia):Creates a pilot program wherein school districts receive a $1,000 bonus for each high school student who (1) earns an industry certification tied to an in-demand job, (2) finishes a rigorous workplace training program tied to key industry needs, or (3) successfully completes a Computer Science AP course. After Florida adopted a similar incentive program, the number of students earning industry certifications each year rose from 800 to 45,000 in just five years, with some of the biggest gains for underserved groups like rural students, minorities and students living in poverty.

Apprenticeship study HB16-1287 (Rosenthal & Wilson/Cooke & Kefalas): Directs the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to study ways to increase the use of apprenticeship programs by Colorado businesses and to make a report and recommendations based on the study.

Extension of ReHire Colorado HB16-1290 (Esgar & Kraft-Tharp/Hill & Heath): Extends the ReHire Colorado program, which provides job training to help Coloradans find gainful employment and transition off of government assistance. The program helps the economic recovery reach the Coloradans who need it most, focusing on helping veterans, seniors and non-custodial parents secure long-term employment.

Tax credit for apprenticeships HB 16-1301 (Garnett/Scheffel): Provides an income tax credit to qualified Colorado businesses that integrate quality apprenticeships into their workplaces. Companies must offer high-paying, in-demand jobs as identified by the state Workforce Development Council.

Colorado Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act HB 16-1302 (Duran & DelGrosso/Newell): Aligns state statute with the federal “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”

Aligning student academic plans with career pathways SB16-079 (Martinez Humenik & Todd/Young): Directs the Department of Education to collaborate with the community college system to more effectively align postsecondary and workforce readiness initiatives, so that students graduate with the tools they need to be successful in their future career and academic goals. This bill has passed the Senate and was introduced in the House this week.

Clarifying license pathways for mental health professionals HB 16-1103 (Kraft-Tharp & Landgraf/ Martinez Humenik & Todd): Clarifies and streamlines the pathway to licensure in the mental health professions. The bill has passed its first House committee and was sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Qualifications for licensed electricians HB16-1073 (Duran & DelGrosso/Scheffel & Guzman): Modifies the license renewal process for electricians by requiring continuing education rather than an assessment. The 24 hours of training will better equip electricians with the skills they need to be successful in their profession.




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