(March 19) – The House Business Affairs & Labor Committee gave a favorable sendoff today to three components of Colorado Ready to Work, a bipartisan 10-bill package to attack lingering unemployment and connect more Coloradans to the good-paying, high-skill jobs our state’s economy is now producing.

HB15-1231, sponsored by Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, passed this evening on an 8-5 vote. The bill continues a program that allows the long-term unemployed to obtain enhanced unemployment insurance benefits while they participate in an approved skills training program.

This program has been shown to be a cost-effective way to help displaced workers gain new, in-demand skills and move off the unemployment rolls and onto a payroll. Rep. Esgar noted that Pueblo’s unemployment rate has recently edged above 6 percent.

“We need to match people looking for jobs with the jobs that are looking for people,” Rep. Kraft-Tharp told the committee.

Earlier, the committee voted 8-5 to approve HB15-1274, sponsored by Reps. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, and Alec Garnett, D-Denver. It directs the state workforce development council to coordinate with industry to design career pathways for critical occupations in growing industries.

A career pathway is a combination of education and training programs, work experiences and counseling that enable individuals to get a job or advance in an industry or occupation.
It’s a roadmap for any student interested in preparing for a career that usually isn’t available through a degree from a four-year college.

“There’s a cultural shift away from the paradigm that a bachelor’s degree should be everybody’s goal,” Rep. Garnett said. “This bill will help young Coloradans who want to chart a different path.”

The first bill approved by the Business Affairs & Labor Committee today was HB15-1276, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver. The bill addresses the low public awareness of the good jobs that are out there in certain industries, as well as the programs that will help Colorado workers gain the skills needed to get those jobs.

“This is a true public-private partnership,” Rep. Pabon said. “It will rely on private industry to identify what critical skills are needed and incentivize private industry to partner with a successful training program for those skills. Ultimately, Coloradans in the employment pipeline benefit.”

The bill, creating matching grants to assist in the outreach, recruiting and training efforts of organizations offering skilled worker training programs, passed on a 10-3 vote.

All three bills now go to the House Appropriations Committee.

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