(March 5) – In a rare outpouring of bipartisanship, legislators from both sides of the aisle in both chambers turned out today to roll out a 10-bill package to attack unemployment in Colorado and expand access to better-paying jobs.

“The best way to help Colorado families stay in the middle class is to create pathways to better-paying jobs,” House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the package’s coordinator, told a Capitol press conference.

She thanked Senate President Bill Cadman, who also spoke at the press conference, and the Republicans who are prime sponsors of one or more of the bills.

“Jobs are a priority we can all support,” Rep. Duran said. “Let’s show Congress how we here in Colorado can get things done in a bipartisan fashion.”

Six bills in the package are to be introduced in the coming days:

Mobile Learning Labs (Lontine & Hamner/Marble & Donovan)
Brings the community college classroom to the workplace. RV-sized vehicles can set up in a company’s parking lot to deliver training programs to employees where they work. The mobile learning labs reduce employee travel time and scheduling hassles while delivering training that’s tailored to the specific needs of the company. Modeled on a Pueblo CC program.

Enhanced Unemployment Insurance (Esgar & Kraft-Tharp/Merrifield)
Continues a program that allows the long-term unemployed to obtain enhanced unemployment insurance benefits while they participate in an approved skills training program. The program has been shown to be a cost-effective way to help displaced workers gain important skills and move off the unemployment rolls and onto a payroll.

Career Pathways (Melton & Garnett/Woods & Kerr)
Directs the state workforce development council to coordinate with industry to design more career pathways — a combination of education and training programs, work experiences and counseling — for critical occupations in growing industries. Based on a manufacturing career pathway that’s already been designed.

P-TECH (Foote & Duran/Woods & Todd)
Creates partnerships with industries to do a combination of internships, mentoring and school courses in information technology and STEM fields. Graduates will come out with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, which they can then use to jump-start a bachelor’s degree or take directly into a career.

WORK Act (Pabon & Williams/Cooke)
Ceates a grant program to close an information gap – the lack of 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. Grants will help the outreach, recruiting and training efforts of organizations offering skilled worker training programs.

Career & Technical Education Programs and Concurrent Enrollment (Winter/Marble & Heath)
Allows high schools to provide coursework and award high school credit for students that they can then count toward apprenticeship programs leading to post-secondary certifications and tech careers.
Provides scholarships to help pay for some of the most in-demand career and tech programs.

These four bills are introduced and in various stages of the legislative process:

HB15-1170 Post-Secondary and Workforce Readiness Coordinator (Kraft-Tharp & Wilson/Hill & Heath)
Creates a statewide coordinator who will work with schools and businesses to help young Coloradans nearing high school graduation decide which post-secondary path is right for them – a four-year college, a community college or a career and technical education program. Students will be encouraged to take the next step up the education ladder, but without trying to shoehorn them into a four-year college, which isn’t the right answer for every student.

HB15-1227 Income Tax Credit for Employers Who Help with Student Loans (Becker K/Heath)
Creates an income tax credit for employers doing business in Colorado who hire recent Colorado graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines and assist them in repaying their student loans. The credits would apply for employees making up to $60,000.

HB15-1230 Innovative Industries Internships (Lee & Foote/Cooke & Heath)
Creates an internship/apprenticeship program in engineering and R&D-intensive companies. Colorado high school or college students or recent graduates enrolling in the program would gain real-world work experience and occupational skills, and employers would provide training tailored to their real-world needs.

SB15-082 County Workforce Development Programs (Moreno & Lawrence/Marble & Hodge)
Authorizes Colorado’s 64 counties to establish workforce development programs to provide financial assistance to their high school graduates who pursue post-secondary education or training. Counties would be able to offer property tax credits or rebates to local taxpayers who contribute to the fund.

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