DENVER, CO – The House today passed bipartisan legislation to break down financial barriers for aspiring professionals to enter new, high-demand careers through a zero-cost credentials program. HB23-1246, sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie and Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, would help meet the state’s workforce demands and save Coloradans money.
“Whether you’re headed back to school or switching careers entirely, zero-cost credentials are a win for everyone because they help meet workforce demands and offer Coloradans the training they need to succeed for free,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “Our communities need more childhood educators, nurses, and firefighters, and this bill breaks down the financial barriers to these and many other in-demand fields. This bill creates new, zero-cost pathways for Coloradans to pursue the careers of their dreams while expanding our state’s strong talent pipeline and helping Coloradans live and serve in the communities they love.”
Zero-Cost Credentials for Aspiring Professionals: HB23-1246 passed by a vote of 56 to 7 and would invest $45 million over the span of two years and pave the way for aspiring professionals in high-demand fields to receive free training toward associate degrees and industry certificates in eligible industries. Eligible industries include elementary and early childhood education, firefighting, law enforcement, forest management, short-term nursing programs, and construction trades.
For programs that are already zero-cost to students, such as Registered Apprenticeship Programs, funding will be provided to cover the costs associated with the training, such as instructor time and instructional materials. The funding to assist Registered Apprenticeship Programs in HB23-1246 is projected to train more than 3,000 students in the construction trades.
HB23-1246 builds off the successful Care Forward Colorado Program that Democrats launched in 2022, by covering the costs associated with reskilling and upskilling, such as tuition, books, and additional instructional training, and expands the number of eligible career fields to include six foundational areas of the workforce. Since its launch in 2022, the Care Forward Colorado Program has successfully trained approximately 1,500 students as certified nursing assistants, emergency services professionals and other high-demand health care careers.
On April 3, the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden visited the Colorado State Capitol to discuss this and other pieces of legislation that prioritize workforce training and uplift aspiring professionals to pursue career paths that do not require traditional, four-year college degrees.