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March 22, 2023

Two Bills Advance to Boost Colorado’s Workforce, Save People Money on Degree Programs

HB23-1246 creates and expands zero-cost credentials to get more aspiring professionals in high-demand fields and SB23-146 improves the Colorado Apprenticeship Directory 

DENVER, CO – Two bills to help Coloradans get connected to in-demand careers and boost Colorado’s workforce passed committee today. 

HB23-1246, sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie and Assistant Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, would break down financial barriers for aspiring professionals to enter new, high-demand careers through a zero-cost credentials program. SB23-146, sponsored by Representatives Sheila Lieder and Regina English, would update the Colorado Apprenticeship Directory to make it easier for Coloradans to find and apply for apprenticeships.   

“Zero-cost credentials save Coloradans money, help critical industries meet workforce demands and offer Coloradans the training and education they need to succeed,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, sponsor of HB22-1246. “Whether you’re an aspiring early childhood educator, nurse or firefighter, our bill breaks down financial barriers to entering these and many other in-demand fields so Coloradans can get a jumpstart on the career of their dreams. New, free pathways help us build strong talent pipelines and connect Coloradans to careers that allow them to live and serve in their communities.”   

Zero-Cost Credentials for Aspiring Professionals: HB23-1246 passed the House Education Committee unanimously. This bill 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 would 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, like 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 our success in the Care Forward Colorado Program to cover 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.

“In Colorado, there are many high-demand industries looking for qualified workers,” said Rep. Sheila Lieder, D-Littleton, sponsor of SB23-146. “This legislation works to improve the Colorado Apprenticeship Directory so we can help our critical industries meet their hiring demands and get Coloradans connected to a career they can be proud of. Apprenticeships offer hands-on experiences in the field, and our bill makes finding a path to a new career easier.”

“Many of Colorado’s critical industries are facing workforce shortages, and we're doing everything we can to streamline qualified individuals into open careers,” said Rep. Regina English, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of SB23-146. “We’re taking steps to not only improve Colorado’s workforce shortage but also ease the transition for Coloradans seeking new, in-demand careers. Our bill modernizes the Colorado Apprenticeship Directory so Coloradans can spend less time searching for the career of their dreams and more time in the field.” 

Updating the Colorado Apprenticeship Directory: SB23-146 passed the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee by a vote of 6 to 4. This bill would require the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to collect and make publicly available more useful information on apprenticeship programs, including each program's registration information and credentials that a worker may earn or become eligible for through the apprenticeship.  

The Colorado Apprenticeship Directory provides a comprehensive, searchable list of registered apprenticeship program sponsors that operate in Colorado. This bill aims to update the online directory to make it easier for Coloradans to find and apply for registered apprenticeship opportunities in Colorado.

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