Expansion of Experiential Learning Opportunities (SB22-140) passed the Colorado Senate with bipartisan support. The bill, introduced by Sen. James Coleman and Rep. Barbara McLachlan, proposes incentives to businesses to offer work-based learning programs; allowing learners to become earners while developing a strong talent pipeline to ensure business growth.
To better highlight the need of business and how this bill addresses these issues, we sat down with Yvonne Myers, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.
What has been your experience with implementing work-based learning programs with your local schools, higher ed, and workforce programs?
Yvonne Myers: In Northern Colorado there is high energy and collaboration with our education and workforce partners to help businesses to connect into work-based learning programs.
Our region is moving toward all our higher education partners using the Handshake platform, helping college students find employment. The Xello platform is becoming the region’s connector of high school students to businesses and visa-versa, to not only create work-based learning opportunities, but even employment.
We partnered with Poudre and Thompson school districts and received a Workforce Innovation Grant for a K-12 Business Navigator. This navigator will strengthen the relationship with our public partners, ensuring businesses are aware of their work-based learning opportunities and posting their employment needs. They can then be engaged at the level they wish. In turn, students and their parents are more aware of careers, pathways, and opportunities for meaningful work in Northern Colorado.
What challenges have kept your members from starting a work-based learning program with your local schools, higher ed, and workforce programs?
Yvonne Myers: Many of our businesses are small businesses. Local owners who work hard every day to make their businesses successful. Many times, they really don’t have the time or staff to learn about what is out there for them. Thus, the role of the K-12 Business Navigator.
Over the next 2 years, this navigator will be busy working with our businesses of all sizes to help them understand work-based learning, to sign up on Xello, and support what they may need to be successful. There can be a cost to this work; staff time to provide job shadows and internships. Training of staff to be those work-based learning champions for a business.
Support for our businesses in this area would be extremely helpful. A support alliance/network of work-based learning business champions to learn best practices from each other could also be beneficial. All of this does add cost to a business.
How would this bill be attractive to your members in incentivizing the creation of work-based learning programs with local schools, higher ed, and workforce development?
Yvonne Myers: One goal as a Chamber is to support our businesses in acquiring and retaining the talent and workforce they need. A healthy and vibrant economy requires a strong business community, good government, resilient and capable non-profits, and a high-quality education system. Investments in these areas will help to ensure success in all areas.
Colorado Succeeds, and over 20 business organizations strongly support this legislation. Continue to follow @COSucceeds from the Capitol to hear more updates as SB22-140 moves through the legislative process.