Colorado News Connection

October 23, 2020Available files: mp3 wav jpg

CO Partnerships Ramp Up for Post-Pandemic Career Training

Lily Bohlke

DENVER - The Centennial State has long had apprenticeship programs, Pell Grants and other training opportunities for workers - and the pandemic is prompting some new ones as well. Fighting COVID-19 could give some Coloradans an onramp to the health-care field.

The Colorado Public Health Workforce Collaborative aims to train thousands of workers, through contact-tracing apprenticeships that can lead to longer-term careers. Therese Ivancovich, executive director of the Denver Education Attainment Network, said it's one of many workforce development efforts.

"Thinking about these creative ways to embed work experience and the opportunities to give you that next leg up or that next up-skill is happening here in Colorado," said Ivancovich.

She pointed to another promising initiative, called "New Skills Ready." It's gotten $7 million in grant funding from JP Morgan Chase to cities, including Denver, to make job training part of education, from K-12 to post-secondary.

Jamie Merisotis, author of a new book on the future of the workforce and president of Lumina Foundation, said uniquely human traits and capabilities - skills that machines can't master - will be more important in the post-novel coronavirus work landscape.

At least one study estimates the jobs in 40% of COVID-related layoffs aren't coming back. Merisotis said the crisis is a chance to rethink education and workforce training.

"For workers who are looking at job loss right now," said Merisotis, "being able to get back into the learning environment, building your skillset and being able to develop those skills, will better position you for this environment of change going forward."

More than 740,000 unemployment claims have been filed in Colorado since March, and jobs overall have decreased by more than 130,000 since September a year ago.

Merisotis said because Black, Latino and Indigenous workers have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, workforce training must adapt to better serve these communities.

"We need to make sure that building our human work ecosystem takes those individuals into account and does a better job, frankly, than what we've done in the past," said Merisotis.

In a recent poll, 60% of Black respondents said their households face serious financial problems in the pandemic. So did 72% of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents, compared with 36% of Whites.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.