It’s no secret that Colorado employers need more skilled workers. From construction and healthcare to manufacturing and IT, thousands of Colorado jobs go unfilled every year because applicants often lack the knowledge and skills needed to fill them. This “skills gap” is unsustainable for our economy, and business leaders across the nation are leading efforts to close it. 

To highlight the important work spearheaded by the business community, the U.S. Business Roundtable recently released a series of video testimonials featuring CEOs of companies including AT&T and Dow Chemical Company. In the videos, each CEO discusses what their company is doing to confront the skills gap head-on, from designing curriculum with community colleges to creating nanodegree programs for current employees. Watch this video of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on the efforts they’re leading.

Colorado Succeeds believes that strong business engagement is essential to any effort that will strengthen our workforce. As these videos demonstrate, there are many opportunities for employers to play a greater role in developing their pipeline of talent and, in turn, to close their specific skills gap.

One highlight: work-and-learn programs. These integrate structured classroom instruction with real-world, work-based learning, and are implemented through partnerships between businesses, educational institutions, government organizations, and other stakeholders.

To help employers learn more about and create work-and-learn programs, the National Network of Business and Industry Associations – led by the U.S. Business Roundtable and ACT Foundation – unveiled this new guidebook. The resource describes numerous work-and-learn models and discusses everything from how to design a program to a glossary of common descriptions. The models range from “low touch,” initiatives such as career fairs and industry tours to “high touch” programs, which include registered apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

Now more than ever before, Colorado jobs are more technical and require a more specialized skill set. If we are to prepare our students for the modern workforce and close the skills gap, we need to have strong business engagement in our education system and encourage more real-world, work-based learning opportunities. Colorado Succeeds-championed school model P-TECH falls into this category as well.

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