A Quick Summary…

Launched in 2019 in partnership with the Colorado Education Initiative, the Homegrown Talent Initiative (HTI) is a statewide effort to develop career-connected learning experiences for K-12 students in rural communities. To better prepare for life after graduation, schools and communities strategically focus on skill development, career-connected learning experiences, and flexible, relevant opportunities that align to student interests and local industry needs.

HTI has come to set the standard for career-connected learning and community partnership in rural Colorado. What started with eight pilot communities in 2019 went on to expand to more than 60 districts in 2022 through advocacy and state and local investments. Now, plans are underway to scale and sustain HTI’s outcomes, increase opportunities for students, jumpstart local economic growth, and uncover new possibilities for Colorado’s communities, learners, and businesses.

The Problem We Were Seeing:

K-12 learners have limited access to robust programming, technology, and hands-on learning in diverse sectors.

These trends hit close to home in Colorado, underscoring the need for student-centered, career-connected learning opportunities that will connect real-world experiences and skill development with the workforce needs of local communities.

of Colorado’s 178 school districts are rural or small rural

Colorado students attend a rural school (1 out of every 5 learners)

Colorado Succeeds, in partnership with the Colorado Education Initiative, envisioned an innovative model for career-connected learning that would improve student outcomes, and encourage collaboration between the education sector and economic development initiatives, ultimately driving economic growth at the local level.

What We Did About It:

Stages of the Career-Connected Learning Continuum (i.e. pathway)

Self-Identity and Career Awareness

Help students across diverse backgrounds develop awareness of their strengths, interests, and values, as well as careers and training opportunities

  • Preference questionnaires
  • Aptitude surveys
  • Career fairs and presentations
  • Classroom speakers

Educational and Career Pathways Exploration

Provide students with more in-depth learning of their strengths, interests, and values, as well as careers and training, often through interaction with professionals or in a work environment

  • Monitoring
  • Job shadowing
  • Worksite tours
  • Capstones

Essential and Technical Skills Development

Develop relevant skills and provide necessary credentials and social capital tied to workforce demands and opportunities

  • K-12 institutions
  • Traditional higher education
  • Bootcamps
  • Technical colleges

Career Entry and Progression

Provide students with opportunities to gain actual work experience that supports development of job skills and offers a clear path to a sustainable career

  • Apprenticeships
  • Internships

What Happens Next?:

What started as an eight-district, three-year, $4M+ pilot has now, through legislative advocacy that led to the state’s more than $15 million Rural Coaction grants, expanded to a larger network of more than 60 districts committed to co-creating and expanding career-connected learning opportunities for students, and developing a shared vision of the future of education based on the strengths, needs, and aspirations for their unique contexts.

HTI Network districts – original and new – are working with Colorado Succeeds and CEI to build school and community momentum for career-connected learning opportunities. In addition to ongoing coaching and technical assistance, districts continue to work with and learn from one another in a cohort model, benefiting from the knowledge and resource sharing of an expanding network of other communities leading similar, but unique, initiatives.

Colorado Succeeds continues to support rural districts in obtaining funding to continue this momentum, including Opportunity Now Colorado, an $85 million grant program supporting talent development initiatives, funded through the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Ali Williams – HTI

Colorado Education Initiative

Dr. Brenda Krage – HTI

Colorado Education Initiative

The Homegrown Talent Initiative was facilitated by Colorado Succeeds with the Colorado Education Initiative, and supported by local and national foundations.

Colorado Succeeds
Colorado Education Initiative
Adolph Coors Foundation
Daniels Fund
Gill Foundation
Walton Family Foundation
El Pomar Foundation
The Weld Trust
Zoma Foundation

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