Monday, December 14, 2009

Gov. Ritter, Lawmakers Announce Job - Training Plans to Strengthen Colorado's Workforce

GOLDEN – Gov. Bill Ritter, Senate President Brandon Shaffer and other lawmakers today unveiled new job-training initiatives that will strengthen Colorado’s workforce, support the state’s small businesses and keep Colorado competitive on the road to economic recovery.

“Over the past three years, we’ve launched some of the most aggressive business- and workforce-development strategies in the country,” Gov. Ritter said during a visit to the Jefferson County Workforce Center. “While Colorado residents and companies continue to struggle, our strategies are working and our economy is beginning to stabilize.

“We still have a long way to go, and government alone cannot fix the economy,” the governor said. “But we can do our part. We can strengthen partnerships between government, schools and businesses. And we can ensure that job-training efforts match job-creation efforts. That’s exactly what we’re doing today, and the end result will be good Colorado jobs for hard-working Coloradans and a stronger homegrown workforce for our businesses.”

“It all begins with a good job,” President Shaffer said. “At the Capitol, we’re fighting for hard-working Coloradans. We’re fighting to create jobs for them, and, thanks to the bills we’re announcing today, we are fighting to make sure Colorado workers are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.”

Gov. Ritter and President Shaffer unveiled three bills that will be introduced in the upcoming 2010 legislative session. The governor also launched a CareerReady Colorado Certificate program.

Job Retraining Accounts (Rep. Andy Kerr/Sen. Bruce Whitehead)

These employer-matched, portable, employee-owned accounts will be used to finance employee education and training. They will encourage the creation of a partnership between workers and employers to increase educational productivity, improve recruitment and retention, and meet the changing demands of our economy. The accounts are tax advantaged in a manner similar to 529 college saving plans.

“My day job is teaching teachers to be even better, so I know that learning never stops,” Rep. Kerr said. “And I know that times are tough and folks are struggling. This bill will – with no new taxes – help people like you and me get the job re-training we need to get good jobs in this tough economy.”“Colorado is a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” Sen. Whitehead said. “We need to do everything possible to ensure Colorado’s workers have the tools to keep up with the national and global workforce. This is an effective, low-cost way to help workers gain new skills and achieve their goals.”

Health Care Jobs for Colorado (Rep. Sara Gagliardi/Sen. John Morse)

This proposal will encourage and provide incentives for health care professionals to serve in rural and underserved communities, ensuring that residents of those areas have access to comprehensive health care services. It will improve existing public and private loan repayment programs and help build the state’s primary care workforce.

“Without any new taxes, we are cutting government and streamlining access to fair loan repayment programs for health care workers,” Rep. Gagliardi said. “As a nurse, I know that helping folks with their loans will bring in more workers like me to provide good health care and more choices for you.”

“Health care workers keep Colorado's people and economy healthy,” Sen. Morse said. “They provide care for people who are sick, and they contribute significantly to their local economies. This bill creates a streamlined process to put primary care physicians and nurses in the communities where they are needed, without increasing the cost to taxpayers.”

Nurse Training Loan Forgiveness (Sen. Abel Tapia)

This legislation will improve the existing CollegeInvest nurse loan forgiveness program by extending is current eligibility requirements. The new program will result in more nurse faculty and, ultimately the number of new nurses that can be trained each year.

Rep. Joe Rice, who chairs the House Business Affairs Committee, said these bills will be part of a broader effort to help create good jobs, assist small businesses and get Colorado’s economy moving in the right direction. “We’ve cut over a billion dollars from government spending and created a leaner and more efficient government so we can do exactly this: focus on jobs and on the real issues that matter to people.”

CareerReady Colorado Certificate:

Gov. Ritter and Don Mares, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, also today introduced a new statewide CareerReady Colorado Certificate program.

The department piloted the program earlier this year. It will now be available statewide, providing job-seekers with a state-issued credential that certifies their skills and abilities. It was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Jobs Cabinet, as it will enable employers to quickly find qualified candidates.

“We talk a lot about shovel-ready projects,” Mares said. “But employers know a project is truly shovel-ready only when there’s a career-ready workforce that’s fully prepared to get the job done. The CareerReady Colorado Certificate is a certified assessment tool that will help businesses to easily identify pre-qualified candidates with the desired skill set, while giving employees an edge in finding a better job.”

While these are challenging economic times, Colorado is responding, and responding in a big way,” Gov. Ritter said. “Through tax cuts, business incentives and greater access to capital we’re making sure Colorado emerges earlier and stronger from the recession. The proposals I announced today will allow us to continue making progress by ensuring we have the trained and certified workforce Colorado needs to support a vibrant economy.


Job Retraining Accounts (Rep. Andy Kerr & Sen. Whitehead)

The purpose is to encourage the creation of a partnership between workers and employers to increase education productivity, improve recruitment and retention, and meet the changing demands of our economy.

Accounts are employer-matched, portable, employee-owned accounts used to finance education and training. The accounts are tax advantaged in a method similar to 529 college saving plans.

The legislation would authorize whomever oversees the state’s 529 plan (currently CollegeInvest), a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, to create and administer these accounts. Employers would offer this to their employees and establish the program structure including eligibility requirements and matching policies.

Accounts would be set up under the CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio Program managed by Upromise and Vanguard Investments. As part of the Direct Portfolio Program, all contributions by the employee would be eligible for an unlimited Colorado state tax deduction, and earnings in the account are tax free for both state and federal tax purposes so long as they are used for qualified education purposes.

Health Care Jobs for Colorado (Rep. Sara Gagliardi & Sen. John Morse)

This proposal re-brands the existing State Health Professional Loan Repayment Program within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as the Colorado Health Service Corps (CHSC) and expands its scope to consolidate and administer existing public and private loan repayment programs for health care professionals serving rural and underserved communities in Colorado.

This will take the program from about $120K/year to a few million.

Provides the Primary Care Office within CDPHE with the administrative flexibility needed to successfully manage this expanded program.

Directs the CHSC Advisory Council to study ways to better coordinate and integrate State’s primary care workforce programs.

Nurse Training Loan Forgiveness Program (Sen. Abel Tapia)

CollegeInvest runs an existing nurse loan forgiveness program that has had limited participation due to overly restrictive eligibility requirements.

This legislation will amend the program eligibility by: (1) changing the teaching requirement from full time to half time and (2) allowing the teaching position to begin within 2 years after the completion of the nursing teacher's advanced degree.

This will result in more nurse faculty, thus increasing the number of new nurses that can be trained each year.

CareerReady Colorado Certificate

· Certifies the skills of qualified job seekers

· Authorized by ACT

· 20-plus states have a CareerReady certificate program; 48 have a similar credentialing system

· Unique employee credentialing system that provides employers with a way to readily identify applicants who have taken steps to build skills for success.

· During the first half of 2009, piloted in eight workforce regions (county and state-run workforce centers) where 700 workers received certification

Arapahoe/Douglas Works!
Jefferson County
Pikes Peak

South Central
Upper Arkansas
· Requires passing a series of three tests which are given in a proctored setting by ACT, the company recognized internationally for its college admission and placement examinations.

· Skills are measured in the categories of Applied Math, Reading for Information and Locating Information.

· More than 85 percent of job profiles compiled by ACT have shown that skills in these areas are important to employers and correlate directly with job performance.

· The certificate, signed by Governor Ritter, is offered to workers in three tiers:
Gold represents an advanced skill level, Silver is for proficiency, Bronze certifies basic skills.

· Benefits to employers:
o Provides concrete proof that prospective employees have essential, core employability skills
o Takes the guesswork out of high-stakes decisions concerning hiring and promoting.
o Facilitates hiring workers with the greatest potential and, as a result, reduces turnover and training costs
o Simplifies interviewing
o Aids training and development

· Benefits to jobseekers
o Better pay due to documented skills
o Demonstrates proof of skills to employers
o Competitive advantage
o Matches skills to best career path
o Concrete proof of capabilities
Employer Testimonials for the CareerReady Colorado Certificate

At Ameristar Casino Resort Spa, we just opened our 4 star hotel in October and we found that utilizing the WorkKeys assessments that can lead to a CareerReady Colorado certificate helped us to identify the best-qualified candidates in the most timely manner. Working with the Workforce Centers to administer the assessments has made it very easy for us.

-- Reggie Fullwood, Sr VP & GM
Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk

Jefferson Economic Council (JEC) is a small not-for-profit organization. Employee change affects us greatly. A few years ago, we were experiencing a high turn-over in our administrative assistant position. Utilizing the CareerReady Colorado Certificate program at the Jefferson County Workforce Center helped us better determine which employee candidates would best perform the job duties we required as well as fit in to our small team. We credit this program for helping us determine the most qualified candidates and turn-over for this position has slowed down dramatically.

-- Michelle Claymore, Vice President
Jefferson Economic Council

I highly recommend the WorkKeys CRC to all employers who would like to get a better idea of a candidates skill level prior to hiring or before expensive training begins. I also personally believe that the WorkKeys CRC has a very positive impact on the applicants because if the testing reveals that they cannot pass a section or all three, they can then concentrate on developing those skills required for employment opportunities. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Work Force Centers and all of the invaluable support that they provide to us at DIA.

-- Deborah Quintan, President/CEO
World Wide Money Exchange
Denver International Airport

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