Workforce Centers, CMC, partner for job retraining
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A relaxing of restrictions for state employment agencies to work with community colleges on worker training has led to an active partnership between Colorado Mountain College and the Colorado Workforce Centers.
Previously, local Workforce Centers were only able to sponsor students who were pursuing a longer-term occupational degree.
Now, under the guidelines of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding can now be used to retrain workers quickly and get them back into the workforce as soon as possible.
“We want to be a catalyst for economic recovery, and this allows us to be a partner
in that,” said Lin Stickler, CMC executive vice president for operations and strategic initiatives. “The idea is for people to become retooled quickly, so that when the labor market comes back they are better prepared with the skills they need to regain employment.”
Since March, CMC has sponsored 43 informational sessions throughout the six-county college district to explain some of the options for obtaining critical back-to-work skills. The sessions were attended by about 700 people, Stickler said.
Some 250 people have since followed up with a variety of retraining sessions jointly sponsored by CMC and the Colorado Workforce Centers.
“The largest needs have to do with obtaining interviewing skills, how to prepare a resume and basic computer skills,” Stickler said. “We will be doing more of these training’s as the money funnels through.”
According to Rosemary Pettus, regional director for the Colorado Workforce Centers, $160,000 was allocated to the Rural Resort Region (Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake and Summit counties) for workforce retraining.
“In the past, we were in a labor shortage market where there were more jobs than people,” she said. “That has turned completely around, where now there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available.”
That change in the local labor market prompted the change in the way the Workforce Center can utilize the resources available through local community colleges.
The Workforce Centers, which operate under the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, are also working with Northwest Community College and hopes to expand its retraining efforts to community colleges statewide, Pettus said.
“People need to be able to be creative in how they search out job openings,” she said. “In working with CMC we are able to help people become more competitive in this labor market, putting more emphasis on retraining and upgrading skills.”
That can include someone just looking to upgrade their bookkeeping skills, for instance, to someone wanting to change careers altogether, Pettus said.
The Workforce Centers partnership is “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of making it easier for workers to retrain, said Stickler.
It’s also now easier for people to obtain federal Pell Grants. Instead of grants being linked to the previous year’s income, they are now based on an applicant’s current income situation.
Also, a new $70,000 Garfield County community block grant program is aimed at career readiness training through CMC and the Workforce Centers. The program uses federal stimulus dollars that are being funneled through the county’s Health and Human Services Department.
“It’s a way of sharing the dollar, so that we can benefit more people with the resources we have,” Pettus said.
In addition, Gov. Bill Ritter will also soon unveil the new Colorado Workforce Readiness Certificate program, which will provide a means to verify skill levels for individual workers so that employers will know their particular skills as they make hiring decisions.
Stickler said CMC is also partnering with local businesses and the new Roaring Fork Business Resource Center to apply for a U.S. Department of Labor grant of between $3 million and $5 million to put toward local career readiness and business development.
Additional federal funding will also benefit CMC students through President Obama’s recently announced $12 billion American Graduation Initiative, aimed at making more grants available for workers seeking to retrain at community colleges.
Specific details on the impact to CMC from that program won’t be known until this fall, Stickler said.
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