Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper: Workforce development success requires innovation

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper touted his state's job creation and low unemployment rate at the Denver workshop of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative.

"Colorado has added 400,000 jobs since I came into office," Gov. Hickenlooper said during a keynote (Watch it here) that opened the workshop focusing on effective partnerships with industry. "Unemployment, which was 9% at the time the recession hit, is now about 2.3%."

The Governor noted, however, that success has a flip side. "Part of challenge is that the labor pool is so tight, businesses are finding it hard to find the talent that they need. So by necessity, we are reaching out to markets we hadn’t focused on before, such as people 65 and older, for example, who may have left the job market but want to keep working."

The search for talent also extends to younger people, in part through the new CareerWise Colorado program. "We're going to have 250 high school students going to work for 80 companies in the coming year," the Governor said. "But I want to see us get to 20,000 apprenticeships in the near future."

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who launched the Workforce Development Initiative in his role as WGA Chair, agreed that employers in his state face a similar challenge finding qualified workers. Gov. Daugaard said that has resulted in a different way of thinking.

"In South Dakota we are working to redefine how to achieve career success. That is, you don’t necessarily need to go to four-year college. That's a good path, but other paths can lead to careers with great success. With so many options out there, we need to make sure students understand them all."  (Watch the Governors' remarks.)

The Western Governors' Association Denver workshop on Sept. 18-19 at the Art Hotel was the second in a series for the Chairman's Initiative of Gov. Daugaard. The initiative seeks to leverage the region’s best thinking to bridge the gap between prospective workers and employers in the West to create enhanced career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers.

Use the links below to watch all workshops:

Opening Remarks: Listen to remarks by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and WGA Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Keynote: Suzan and Eric LeVine: Suzan LeVine, the former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and her husband Eric discussed their work as self-described “evangelists of apprenticeship.” View presentation slides.

Roundtable: The Role of States in Strengthening Industry Leadership for Talent: This discussion focused on the role states play in bringing industry to the table and leveraging state resources for workforce development. Moderator: Wendy Brors, Assistant Director, Colorado Workforce Development Council. Panelists: John Aultman, Senior Policy Advisor, Workforce Development, Office of Washington Governor Jay Inslee; Shalee Hodgson, System Alignment Manager, Oregon Employment Department; Tami Pyfer, Education Advisor, Office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert. 

Case Study: Colorado’s Model for Public-Private Partnerships:  This case study provided the how and why of setting up successful public-private partnerships. Moderator: Stephanie Veck, Director, Colorado Workforce Development Council. Panelists: Yvonne Myers, Northern Colorado Health Sector Partnership; Elerie Archer, Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Sector Partnership; Thomas Hartman, Colorado Career Pathways Coordinator, Colorado Workforce Development Council.

Roundtable: Industry-Led Workforce Development Initiatives: States and industry representatives provided examples of successful workforce development initiatives that have been driven by businesses or industry. Moderator: Ellen Golombek, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Panelists: Noel Ginsburg, Founding Executive Board Chair, CareerWise Colorado; Carla Gatzke, VP of Human Resources, Daktronics; Heather Terenzio, Co-founder & CEO, Techtonic Group.

Roundtable: Aligning Education and Training with Industry Defined Competencies: An exploration of the use of industry defined competencies to develop meaningful education and training and efforts to encourage employers to hire based on those defined skills. Moderator: Jeff Wasden, President, Colorado Business Roundtable. Panelists: Beth Cobert, CEO, Skillful; Mary LeFebvre, Senior Research Scientist-Workforce Policy, ACT; Andrew Fitzpatrick, Director Global Policy, Walmart.

Looking Around the Curve: Josh Davies, Center for Work Ethic Development, delivered a dynamic examination of how employment has dramatically changed throughout history -- and how it will continue to change dramatically in the future. Davies highlighted the impact of automation, the rising role of competency-based education and training, and the importance of partnering with industry. View the Prezi presentation.

After Davies' presentation, Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director of WGA, moderated a discussion among representatives from industries that will be affected by the changes, including: Chris Houwman, CEO, Malloy Electric, Tom Bugnitz, CEO, Manufacturer’s Edge; and Ray Johnson, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager at IBM.

All workshop livestreams are archived on WGA’s YouTube page.

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