Dems announce ‘Skills for Jobs’ Act to help Coloradans find jobs that match their skills

January 8, 2012

(Denver) – House Democrats continued rolling out their 2012 jobs agenda today with a bill that will make it easier for private industry and the state’s educational institutions to work together to connect Coloradans to good jobs.

The measure, called the “Skills for Jobs Act,” is part of a package of bills being introduced by House Democrats over the coming days and weeks to implement practical, workable ideas to fire up the state’s economy. The 2012 legislative session begins Wednesday.

“We need to be creating opportunities for our students,” Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Englewood), sponsor of the Skills for Jobs Act, said today at a press conference in the Tivoli Center on the Auraria campus in Denver. “We need to prepare them for the workforce, and what better way than to guide them toward the industries where there are jobs available right now?”

Appearing today with Rep. Kagan in support of the bill were Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the House Democratic leader; Dr. Stephen M. Jordan, president of Metropolitan State College; Dr. Paula Gomez Farrell, director of SkillBuild Colorado, and Rich Jones, director of policy and research for the Bell Policy Center.

Dr. Jordan said this bill is important to Colorado for multiple reasons—citing its importance as an additional tool in Colorado’s economic development tool box and the already in-place infrastructure to easily implement this legislation. In addition, Dr. Jordan said the bill is an important step in helping Colorado students become successful in Colorado’s economy.

“It is important our students have the opportunity to be engaged and aligned with the current workforce trends to give them an opportunity to get good paying jobs,” Dr. Jordan said.

Dr. Gomez Farrell echoed Dr. Jordan when discussing vocational training programs.

“As Colorado looks to remain a strong competitor in the global economy, it’s critical that we align our workforce and education outcomes with current and projected labor market demand,” she said. “Rep. Kagan’s bill provides an opportunity for the state to be strategic, evaluate labor and skill needs, and train and prepare Coloradans for the job opportunities that are expected to grow today and tomorrow.”

What the bill does:

Currently, the state Department of Labor and Employment collects data on job openings, and the state Department of Higher Education keeps track of enrollments and course offerings at our universities, colleges and vocational schools. But the two departments don’t talk to each other.

When companies indicate they need new software engineers, the Department of Labor doesn’t necessarily tell the Department of Higher Education. In turn, the Department of Higher Ed doesn’t necessarily urge guidance counselors to steer students toward software engineering, and it doesn’t necessarily have the right tools to encourage deans at community colleges and universities to create more software engineering courses.

“Finally,” Rep Kagan continued, “Higher Ed does not have a process in place to tell companies, ‘Hey, Metro State has a number students graduating this year with software engineering degrees that suit your needs. The Skills for Jobs Act changes all that.”

The bill directs the Department of Labor to report job-opening data to the Department of Higher Education. Higher Ed will then pass on the information to colleges and vocational schools so they can adjust course offerings can be adjusted, and students can make better course-selection decisions. Higher Ed will report these trends to businesses, which can then make smarter personnel decisions.

Rep. Kagan said the bill can be implemented at little or no cost to the taxpayer. Companies already provide the state with information about their job vacancies, so little or no new paperwork will be required, he said.

“This is a smart, simple idea, but it could go a long way toward getting people into good paying jobs right now, and in the future,” Rep. Kagan concluded.

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