New laws will create free pathways to in-demand careers and offer graduating students scholarships for community college programs
SALIDA/ALAMOSA, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed two bipartisan bills into law that will support Colorado’s workforce by expanding the successful zero-cost credentials program and offering $1,500 scholarships to graduating high school students to help fill jobs in growing industries.
HB23-1246, sponsored by Speaker McCluskie and Representative Pugliese and Senators Buckner and Will, saves Coloradans money and helps meet our state’s workforce needs by breaking down financial barriers for aspiring professionals to enter new, high-demand careers. This law invests $45 million over the span of two years and paves the way for Coloradans to receive zero-cost training toward associate degrees and industry certificates in critical fields like early childhood and elementary education, firefighting, law enforcement, nursing and construction.
“Colorado’s zero-cost credentials and degree program has already offered thousands of Coloradans a free pathway to degrees in critical fields such as nursing and emergency response,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “With the law Gov. Polis just signed, aspiring teachers, child care workers, nurses, firefighters, law enforcement officers and construction workers will soon have a completely free pathway to the career of their dreams. This law will boost our economy, address Colorado’s workforce shortages, and help fill critical jobs – especially in rural communities.”
“Colorado continues to struggle with workforce shortages in careers ranging from early childhood education to nursing and firefighting,” 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 land jobs in critical career fields and lowering the barriers to entry for training and education programs.”
SB23-205, sponsored by Senator Bridges and Minority Leader Lundeen and Representatives Martinez and Wilson, creates a new scholarship program to help graduating high school students earn credit toward degrees in growing industries.
“Opportunity is a core Colorado value, and this bill gives high school graduates in our state $1,500 to help them earn a good life,” said Senator Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. “There are thousands of job openings in Colorado, but not enough trained workers to fill them. With this bill, we’ll get people the certificates, degrees, and apprenticeships they need, which is good for them, good for employers, and good for our economy.”
“By creating this scholarship program, nearly 15,000 graduating students will save up to $1,500 toward the next step in their education, training and career development,” said Rep. Matt Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “With more job openings than workers in Colorado, we’re looking to provide the next generation of students with the skills and opportunities they need to thrive. Addressing our workforce shortage will create jobs, support small businesses across our state, and grow our economy.”
The shortage of trained workers in Colorado leaves thousands of job openings across the state unfilled. SB23-205 provides 15,000 graduating students with a scholarship up to $1,500 for any approved training provider in Colorado, including apprenticeships and on-the-job training, trade school, community colleges, colleges and universities.