Archive for the ‘Workforce Readiness’ Category

Article by Senator Mike Johnston, Denver Business Journal, October 17, 2014

Colorado lacks a stable pipeline of qualified professionals entering the workforce. Unless we take steps to scale Colorado workforce to match innovation, our economic growth is in jeopardy.

From an efficiency standpoint, we must focus efforts on those industries with the greatest potential for fastest growth. As growth is often tied to innovation, organizations surrounding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have obvious high potential for spurring more progress to Colorado’s economy.

In fact, 12 of the 14 key industry sectors, as defined by Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, require skills in the STEM disciplines. However, right now there’s just one college graduate for every three STEM-related jobs and seven graduates for each non-STEM job.

Many would point out the numerous K-12 initiatives focused on resolving the STEM challenge. Colorado has done an exceptional job of addressing the STEM challenge from the ground up, and with great efficacy.

However, the challenge must be resolved by equipping both current and future workforce to truly fulfill the needs of industry. Properly training Colorado’s entering workforce enables companies to meet staffing needs locally, rather than recruiting out of state. This provides even greater incentive for high-growth companies to locate in Colorado or open satellite offices here.

How can we equip the workforce with the skills necessary to fulfill industry needs? Better communication between the trainers and the companies utilizing the workforce. Higher education institutions must look to industry to illuminate the skills and experiences necessary for success in the STEM workforce.

Currently, higher-education institutions believe graduates leave school with 70 percent of the skills necessary to enter the workforce. However, industry is saying the number is closer to 50 percent. We must find better alignment on curriculum.

In California, Hands-On Learning has helped Kaiser team up with a leading university to better equip nursing graduates with precisely the right skills to fill Kaiser nursing positions. The result: better-trained graduates and a stronger pipeline of workforce for a business in need.

In Colorado, select business, higher education and public policy leaders are already huddling around this issue, addressing the economic ramifications of a workforce shortage in Colorado, and working together to open a dialogue and affect change.

By following these leaders, together we can keep Colorado’s economy at the top of the list.

Sen. Mike Johnston is a Democrat who represents northeast Denver. Reach him via email at

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