Four Rural Colorado Collaboratives Awarded Statewide Opportunity Now Seed Grant for Nearly $3 Million

Last week, a cooperative of four rural Colorado collaboratives – the Fremont Multi-District Initiative, Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative, Western Slope Schools Career Collaborative, and Yampa Valley Partnership for Students, Stewardship, and Sustainability – was announced as the recipient of a Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade Opportunity Now Seed Grant.

The rural collaborative’s partnership, Colorado Rural Talent Network, represents an ambitious three-year plan to increase resource sharing, concurrent enrollment, and work-based learning programming in rural communities. Collectively, this blended coalition will serve 20 school districts in 12 counties, seven higher education partners, and non-profit business and industry partners in each region.

Colorado Education Initiative, Colorado Succeeds, Empower Schools, and Lyra Colorado thank the many partners from across the state for leading this important work for Colorado students.

Over the last five years, these rural communities have made significant investments in and supported the expansion of career-connected learning. A desire to create pathways of opportunity for students and families that lead to living wages, connect learning to in-demand jobs, and spur community-driven change, have led to significant efforts in rural Colorado to lay a groundwork for success. 

This historic funding to the Colorado Rural Talent Network will support these regions with building pathways in rural school districts, including career-connected learning, concurrent enrollment, and career and technical education – building on the work communities started through the Homegrown Talent Initiative, RISE Education Fund, and Rural Coaction Funding. 

“We applaud all four of these regions for the incredible work they have already begun for our State’s students, ” shared Alyssa Morton from Empower Schools. “We look forward to seeing all they accomplish next with this catalyst to support their work.” 

The Opportunity Now Grant Program is a groundbreaking step in ensuring Colorado communities create and expand innovative workforce and talent initiatives. Over the course of three rounds, Opportunity Now seeks to provide $85 Million in funding to catalyze innovation for Colorado’s workforce. Seed funding is provided to initiatives aiming to launch innovative models to address Colorado’s workforce and talent challenges.

“Opportunity Now is an exceptional step for our state to ensure we are preparing Colorado’s learners for Colorado’s jobs,” shared Scott Laband, president at Colorado Succeeds. “We know the business community is critical in leading and supporting education and workforce development solutions, and look forward to the ongoing partnership with educators, policy leaders, and community partners to build paths to economic mobility for all Colorado students.”

Colorado Education Initiative, Colorado Succeeds, Empower Schools, and Lyra Colorado partnered to develop Elevating Rural Colorado: Building a Thriving Tomorrow by Investing in K-12 Education and Economic Development to build knowledge about the career-connected learning work and impacts that have occurred and are emerging in rural Colorado education and economic development and to place these efforts in context amid growing state momentum. This report provides important insights about the roles of policy and funding in creating current conditions for success as well as what will be needed next to sustain it in Colorado’s next phase.