Last week, leaders of the Colorado General Assembly set aside partisan differences and rolled out a 10-bill package to tackle lingering unemployment and address lack of available workforce in certain sectors to assure the state’s economic resurgence remains strong.
The package is focused upon getting Colorado’s businesses more involved in the process of producing Coloradans with the skills and training to step into the thousands of good-paying, skilled positions that are available in Colorado but go unfilled, or are filled by out-of-staters.
“A thriving economy is not a Democratic priority or a Republican priority, it’s a Colorado priority,” House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) said at a press conference announcing the package. Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas County), House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) joined Duran for the announcement.
“Our businesses can partner with our schools,” Rep. Duran said. “Let’s encourage Colorado’s companies to take a larger role in the development of the next generation of Colorado workers.”
In addition to providing tools to encourage companies to participate in the development of the workforce, other bills in the package would bolster the computer science and digital literacy curriculum in Colorado K-12 schools and reward school districts for producing high school graduates with workplace-ready skills and training.
Below is a list of the bills included in the package. The NCLA board will be considering its positions on the workforce package at their board meeting this week.
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 HB 16-1291 (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.