Accelerating Work-Based Learning at the 2017 Sectors Summit

The Sectors Summit, aimed at accelerating work-based learning statewide, was the largest gathering of its kind in Colorado. Hosted by the TalentFound Network – which includes Colorado Succeeds -the summit brought together more than 500 attendees from business, K-12 education, post-secondary education, and workforce development. Every region of the state had representation.

The three-day conference culminated in collaboratively-developed, region-specific work-based learning program plans.

Colorado Succeeds was thrilled to support this gathering and participate in these important conversations. Here are some top lessons from the event:

  1. Colorado needs to move to an era of equitable inclusion hiring. Colorado Succeeds’ Member and Pairin CEO, Michael Simpson shared the importance of equitable hiring, based on abilities that align with an organization’s needs and culture. To offer an example of this approach, he asked if a sushi chef could make a good machinist. The answer: With the chef’s attention to detail and ability to perform the same task repeatedly and consistently – yes. Hiring should focus on competencies and soft skills, not necessarily industry experience or even education.
  2. The gig economy is one of the leading indicators of where the workforce is headed. Josh Davies with the Center for Work Ethic Development predicted that by 2030, technology will eliminate more jobs than it will create for the first time. That’s leading to the gig economy: Short-term contracts or freelance work instead of permanent jobs. To prepare the future workforce, he recommended that jobs seekers:
    • Stop repeating repetitive reiterations – In other words, don’t pursue jobs that require the same daily routine. They will be replaced by artificial intelligence.
    • Develop non-automatable skills – For example, pursue opportunities that require the ability to relate with and empathize with others.
    • Evolve apprenticeships Develop these opportunities beyond skilled trades.
    • Focus on skills over degrees – Skills trump everything else.
    • Understand that all STEM is not the same – Colorado’s workforce pipeline does not have a STEM problem but instead a computer development gap.
  3. The Education Leadership Council (ELC) will set a statewide vision from pre-K to workforce. David Padrino, Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant Governor and Colorado Rep. Bob Rankin polled conference attendees to gauge the level of support for developing this vision and how difficult it might be to implement. While the journey will not be easy, there was consensus among attendees that such a vision is necessary.
  4. Business needs to be at the center of work-based learning. The end goal is meaningful employment for everyone and to get there, all sectors need to first understand business needs. Our President, Scott Laband provided hints on how to engage with businesses during an industry panel for K-12 attendees:
    • Talent pipeline creation – Provide tangible evidence of student talents/abilities
    • Community engagement – Provide opportunities for businesses’ employees to volunteer
    • Brand recognition- Be proactive in sharing successful partnerships broadly within regions
    • Easy entry point – Make it simple for businesses to get involved
    • Hospitality-driven mindset – Be service oriented and share how much students are capable of when they help solve business problems
    • Over communicate – This helps avoid misunderstandings and improves collaboration.
  5. Together, we can accelerate work-based learning in the state. At the culmination of the Summit were regional work-sessions, during which all sectors came together to share what they had learned in the preceding days and develop actionable programs to carry efforts forward at home. Excellent, comprehensive plans were shared, which invite collaboration and game-changing evolution in the months ahead.

The Sector’s Summit was a helpful convening to align industry, education, and workforce demands. Colorado Succeeds looks forward to continuing to work with all members, stakeholders, and partners to expand high-quality and relevant work-based learning opportunities for all Colorado kids.

Shannon Nicholas

Chief of Staff
Colorado Succeeds

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