HB20-1002, college credit for work experience, which was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Jared Polis, will allow students and members of the current workforce to earn postsecondary credit for demonstrating competencies gained through work-related experience, such as work-based learning in high school through apprenticeships. Colorado Succeeds strongly supported this legislation.

Bill sponsors Reps. Barbara McLachlan (D), Mark Baisley (R), Sens. Rachel Zenzinger (D), Tammy Story (D) led this critical effort, which is a step toward an education system that is more permeable and agile. Because of their leadership, and other state and industry partners, Colorados learners can now develop transferable competencies that will prepare them for a future we cannot predict, and where the education system is responsive to the diverse needs and interests of all learners. The new law ensures there are multiple high-quality pathways for learners, of all ages, who seek to accelerate postsecondary credential completion.

“There were so many people that graduated high school that couldn’t afford college,” Rep. McLachlan said. “They went on to have a very productive work life, then decided later in life that they should’ve gone to college. [With this bill] they can go back to college and gain all of their experience [to go toward a degree or credential].”

The new law creates a framework that will allow learners to earn postsecondary credit at our 2-year and 4-year institutions for prior work experience, including work-based learning occurring in high school. It specifically helps two populations:

  • Students. Work-based learning will become more valuable as it can now be tied to post-secondary credit, lowering the cost and time needed to complete credentials. 
  • Members of the Current Workforce. Thousands of Coloradans have some postsecondary credit, but not the corresponding credential. The policy creates additional onramps for those adults to earn college credit for demonstratable knowledge and competencies from their work experience.  

Career-connected learning initiatives already implemented and championed by schools and businesses, including the apprenticeship program at Pinnacol Assurance, will now help students to gain real career experience and provide viable path toward earning college credit. 

“[Pinnacol Assurance] is keenly attuned to supporting initiatives the reinforce and broaden opportunities for Coloradans to receiving training and exposure in skill development that they need to access meaningful employment in in-demand sectors,” said Pinnacol Assurance Apprenticeship Program Manager Mark Tapy. “This bill allows for us to more broadly reach the workforce and to incentivize postsecondary attainment.”

College Credit for Work Experience will now enable students to earn postsecondary academic credit by demonstrating competencies learned through their work-based learning.

“[College Credit for Work Experience] would allow our apprentices to earn postsecondary academic credit by demonstrating competencies learned through their apprenticeship instead of only by attending courses outside of the workplace,” Edie Sonn, Pinnacol Assurance Vice President of Communication and Public Affairs, said in testimony to Colorado Legislature. “The learning that occurs inside the workplace should be fully leveraged. The experience, when it can be demonstrated, should count toward a student’s eventual academic credentials.”

More simply, College Credit for Work Experience is a game changer for postsecondary credential attainment in Colorado.

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Kelly Caufield