DENVER - Today, Governor Polis, joined by bipartisan lawmakers including House Speaker Julie McCluskie, State Representatives Matthew Martinez, Rose Pugliese, Don Wilson, State Senators Janet Buckner and Perry Will, Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, members of the Governor’s cabinet, Colorado Community College System chancellor Joe Garcia, community members, and students, announced legislation to connect hardworking Coloradans with the skills and training they need to thrive, saving people money on advanced training and education and filling Colorado’s in-demand jobs. Through flexible scholarship support to save students money on postsecondary education and training and zero-cost credential programs for in-demand jobs, this legislation paves the way for Coloradans to pursue good-paying careers while meeting the needs of Colorado’s robust workforce.
“We are saving people money on training and education, making it easier for Coloradans to get the skills they need to fill critical jobs and build careers they love. Today, Colorado has two open jobs for every unemployed person, which is why we are taking bold action now to make sure employers find the talent they need, and breaking down barriers for Coloradans to achieve their dreams,” said Gov. Polis.
The zero-cost credentials initiative, sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie, Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, State Senators Janet Buckner and Perry Will, builds upon the success of Care Forward Colorado, which has already trained more than 1,000 students since launching in the Fall of 2022. The legislation announced today would provide aspiring professionals in high-demand fields with free training toward associate degrees and industry certificates at public community colleges, local district colleges, or area technical colleges. Eligible industries include elementary and early childhood education, firefighting, law enforcement, forest management, short-term nursing, and construction trades.
“Whether you’re headed back to college or switching careers entirely, zero-cost credentials open the door to new, high-demand careers across Colorado,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “Our bill makes it easier for aspiring professionals seeking careers as firefighters, nurses and early childhood educators to upskill and reskill through free training, certification and advanced education courses. These new, free pathways will boost our workforce and help fill open positions in critical jobs so more Coloradans can start the professions of their dreams and serve their communities.”
“Colorado continues to struggle with workforce shortages in careers ranging from early childhood education to nursing and fire fighting,” said Senator Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “Since 2022, the Care Forward Colorado program has made great progress in connecting students with high demand career pathways, but there is much more we can do. With this important bill, we’re further expanding opportunities for Coloradans to get involved in critical career fields and lowering the barriers to entry for training and education programs.”
“Colorado's rural communities need skilled workers to fill jobs across industries, which is why we are making sure Coloradans can get the training they need to fill the in-demand jobs that power our communities,” said Senator Perry Will, R-New Castle.
The scholarship initiative, sponsored by State Senator Jeff Bridges, Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, and State Representatives Matthew Martinez and Don Wilson, expands access and reduces financial barriers to postsecondary education and training opportunities, making sure the workforce of tomorrow receives the tools and training they need to thrive today. The scholarships will provide each student with a $1,500 scholarship to take to any approved training provider in Colorado, from apprenticeship and on-the-job training to trade school, community colleges, and colleges and universities. This transformative financial support has the capacity to serve 15,000 graduating students in the Class of 2024, more than 25% of all high school graduates statewide.
“This bill is a win-win for Coloradans looking for good-paying jobs and Colorado businesses trying to hire for those jobs,” said Senator Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. “We have hundreds of thousands of open jobs in this state that require some kind of education beyond high school. With this bill we’re creating the opportunity for people across Colorado to get trained, get hired, and earn a good life.”
"We are providing Coloradans with resources and flexibility to get the training and education they need to fill jobs across the state. This support for Colorado workers supports our economy, our workers, and our businesses," said Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R- Monument.
“Many Colorado students want to pursue higher education or technical jobs, but financial barriers often stand in the way of their dreams,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “This bold legislation expands access to post-secondary education and professional career training by offering more versatile scholarships to high school seniors. There are many high-demand jobs in Colorado going left unfilled, and this bill helps break down some of the financial barriers faced by students to get them on a strong career path and boost our state’s workforce in the process.”
“These investments in Colorado’s workforce help to meet the needs of employers and hardworking Coloradans, filling in-demand jobs and making sure people can get the skills they need,” said Representative Don Wilson - R, Monument, District 20.
In his State of the State address to the General Assembly, Governor Polis highlighted that Colorado currently has two available jobs for every unemployed person. The bipartisan legislation announced today builds upon the Polis administration’s work, in partnership with the legislature, to connect businesses with hardworking Coloradans for in-demand jobs, saving people money and making it easier and more affordable for Coloradans to access advanced training and education.