Investing In Short-term Credentials to meet Colorado’s Workforce Needs

For years, Colorado Succeeds has galvanized the business community in support of increasing access to high-quality postsecondary and career pathways in K-12 education and, more recently, in Colorado’s postsecondary ecosystem to ensure learners have access to career-relevant education and training.

Last week, Governor Polis announced his support for HB23-1246, which would invest $40 million to produce short-term credentials in high-demand areas at zero cost to learners.

This gives more Coloradans access to short-term credentials – degree programs that quickly and effectively prepare students for jobs. Learners can complete a program within two years, typically at a community and technical college. Additionally, research shows they lead to meaningful employment, career advancement or higher pay, and continued education.

Given that most recent estimates show Colorado has two jobs for every trained worker, supporting access to short-term credentials in high-value, in-demand industries is essential now more than ever.

For example, healthcare has a significant worker shortage, in part, from the pandemic. The 2021 and 2022 Colorado Talent Pipeline reports show an increase of 18,613 unique RN job postings in a single year. 

In response, last year the General Assembly invested $26 million to expand access to short-term healthcare credentials. 

Known as Care Forward Colorado, this initiative allows public institutions that offer allied health programs like CNA certificates, emergency medicine programs like EMTs, phlebotomy, and dental programs to provide these programs at zero cost to learners. The program has trained over 1,000 students at institutions across the state in only one year. 

The proposal announced last week builds on this success. It provides zero-cost, short-term credentials in other high-need industries in the state, like early childhood education, firefighting, law enforcement, forest management, and construction trades. 

Aligned with two of Colorado Succeeds’ policy principles (ensuring industry alignment and putting students first), this policy marks a shift in how we typically fund postsecondary education by targeting funding to students pursuing areas of need rather than simply making broad investments.

This program is a step in the right direction and will help build the infrastructure and provide resources so that learners can complete high-quality, no-cost credentials with guaranteed ROI, a win-win for everyone.

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