Calling all Employers and Learning Providers: Apply for the $5M Prize Pool for Workforce Development Solutions

Recently announced, the SyncUp Colorado Challenge is a $5 million prize pool for breakthrough partnerships and solutions that accelerate workforce development efforts for young people ages 12 – 24 and address the skills gap currently impacting business in Colorado. In addition to funding, SyncUp Colorado is an opportunity to expand your impact in developing a strong talent pipeline, gain statewide recognition for your leadership, and engage with innovators and funders, including the challenge partners: ZOMALAB, The Colorado Governor’s Office, Colorado Succeeds, Colorado Thrives, SemperVirens, Skillful, and Strada Education Network.

We need innovative ideas for workforce development now more than ever, so we’re calling on our incredible network of employers and learning providers to apply with their big solutions and partnership ideas today.

The State of Workforce Development in Colorado

Colorado’s average job growth is at 2.3%, nearly double the national average. However, the vast majority (88%) of high paying, high demand jobs require a credential beyond high school and only 57.6% of Coloradans have a certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and/or professional degree. Further, the over-reliance on the traditional four-year degree has left many students graduating without the relevant skills and competencies they need to find employment. The result: 86% of Colorado employers say the “skills gap” is a threat to their businesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of technological disruption and changes happening with industry, while also exacerbating the challenges facing many learners and opportunity seekers, particularly those who have been historically marginalized and underserved. There is now an even greater urgency to move past asking learners and employers to conform to constraints of the current system, and instead build a new system that responds to their dynamically changing needs and interests.

The Power of Partnerships

Partnerships between employers and learning providers have the potential to improve the quality and reach of programs that prepare our young people for successful careers and lives. At Colorado Succeeds, we’ve seen that the most successful partnerships do three things well:

  1. Create a shared language and use it consistently to truly connect with one another, rather than talk past each other with acronyms and terms of art that don’t have a shared meaning among all the partners.
  2. Identify a collaborative vision and set of mutually agreed upon goals using that shared language.
  3. Have a shared understanding of how success will be measured, and over what time period.

Here are some inspiring examples we’ve seen in action: 

  • The Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab (MiLL): A unique collaboration between two school districts and industry partners that offers career-connected learning in manufacturing and construction, equipping students with essential skills in creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
  • Cherry Creek Innovation Campus: Through close partnership with industry, this facility mimics real-world workplaces, allowing students to explore their passions, while providing them with a pathway to credential attainment made possible by partnership with industry and higher education.
  • Pinnacol Assurance: In partnership with CareerWise Colorado, Pinnacol offers an award-winning three-year apprenticeship program to high school students in the Denver Metro area that seeks to help learners find their way by exposing them to many different career pathways and preparing them for a job in a specific field.
  • RK University: RK’s offers an apprenticeship program with their in-house licensed tradespeople who instruct and mentor learners through on-the-job and classroom training, along with laboratory classes. They also offer a variety of upskilling opportunities for current staff.
  • Lockheed Martin: Lockheed supports more than 70 work-based learning programs for college students and current employees designed to skill workers for long-standing careers in aerospace and defense.

Now is your chance to make your vision for employer and learning provider partnership a reality. And with the SyncUp Colorado Challenge, not only are winners given the financial resources needed to make these partnerships possible, but they are also given capacity in the planning process to ensure the solutions are built in a way that truly addresses learner and workforce needs.   

Have a Breakthrough Idea? Apply Today

Round 1 applications are due June 1, 2021, and we’d love to see you in the running. Here are some resources to support you in the process:

  • The application can be found here.
  • An extended fact sheet for reference is here.
  • Sign-up for the SyncUp Colorado Challenge Newsletter here
  • Schedule time with a SyncUp Colorado Challenge team directly here.
  • Contact Brad Revare from Colorado Succeeds to let him know if you are interested in applying for this prize, and if so, how we can best support you in sharing this information with your business members and partners. The Succeeds team is happy to schedule time with you to discuss the prize, brainstorm ideas for applications, or strategize and facilitate introductions to potential training partners who could be a good fit for talent pipeline needs.

We can’t wait to see what innovative approaches you have in mind to build stronger workforce development opportunities for young people in Colorado. 

Colorado Succeeds