Jan 28, 2022

Anthony Lux serves as CCLP's director of communications. His areas of expertise include institutional communications strategies, constituency growth and network activation for cause-driven organizations. Staff page ›

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Skills2Compete-Colorado announces new goals for 2022-2023

by | Jan 28, 2022

As the coordinator of Skills2Compete–Colorado Coalition, CCLP is proud to share the coalition’s goals for 2022-2023.

Through outreach, research, and advocacy, Skills2Compete promotes policies that bridge the gap between the jobs employers offer now and in the near future, and the skills that current job seekers have today. Skills2Compete focuses on skills training from adult basic education through middle-skills jobs.

(Download in PDF format here)

Goal #1: Support the National Skills Coalition’s Skills for an Inclusive Recovery policy agenda

  • A safety net that supports workers’ long-term pathways to skilled careers
  • A comprehensive approach to re-training and re-employment for all displaced workers
  • Publicly funded job creation that includes training for those in need of a new career
  • Support to local businesses to avert layoffs and encourage upskilling
  • Sector partnerships to drive industry specific training and hiring strategies
  • Digital access and learning for all working people at home and on the job
  • High quality, job-ready education for those who need to re-enter the labor market, including making college work for working people
  • Public data and accountability regarding who is being included in this recovery

For more details, visit: https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resource/publications/skills-for-an-inclusive-economic-recovery/

Goal #2: Expand the access to support services for education, skills training, job search and job retention for those with barriers to employment.

Support services include childcare, housing and transportation.

  • Renew the Emergency Employment Support Services Program
  • Identify ways to leverage existing sources of funding for support services.
  • Advocate for additional funding for support services, and the role of support services in educational success and job retention.
  • Work with Colorado Department of Higher Education on the role they can play in identifying and connecting low-income students to support services to help them complete their education.

Goal #3: Promote digital inclusion at both the individual and systemic levels

  • Work with the Future of Work Office to plan a coordinated state agency response to the need for people to acquire digital access, connectivity, and skills to obtain skills training, succeed at job search, and retain ongoing employment. Identify specific digital skills required and of value. Promote access to community digital coaches and community internet access.
  • Advocate for digital skills training through every means possible — on the job, from adult education, libraries, schools (to include both children and their parents in digital access and skills), human services, community service organizations, etc.
  • Build in optional access points into systems set up for online access only.

Goal #4: Advocate for SNAP Employment and Training development into a skill-building, career launching opportunity.

  • Advise Colorado Department of Human Services on implementation of HB21-1270, our bill which added a one-time $3 million in state funding to pull down a $3 million federal match to expend and improve the SNAP Employment and Training Program. Our emphasis is expansion to rural areas without the program and the inclusion of smaller community-based providers who could not afford to front the 50% non-federal match.
  • Track the development of additional support services and work-based learning opportunities
  • Work with Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Department of Higher Education, Hunger-Free Colorado, Young Invincibles, etc. on expanding access to SNAP by having Community College CTE Classes count as work activity, and by identifying and leveraging Work Study funding to maximize the number of low-income four-year students who will qualify automatically.

Goal #5: Expand Access to Adult Education

  • Advocate for increased ongoing funding. A one-time infusion of $5 million in American Rescue Plan funding under HB21-1264 will temporarily fund an expansion from the previous funding level of less than $1 million per year in general fund.
  • Evaluate outcomes for the “Pay-For-Performance” Adult Education funding. If a renewal is introduced, advocate for measures to prevent potential “creaming”, versus equal access and expansion of eligibility to include adult education providers who are not the degree granting entity
  • Advocate for family literacy (2 gen approach) and English as a second language instruction made possible by the passage of 20-SB009, not just High School Equivalency instruction for immediate employment. This is important for race equity in education and reducing the education gap. HB21-1264’s one-time $5 million in funding can be used for this purpose.

Goal #6: Reduce Barriers to Education, Training, and Employment

  • Identify demographic characteristics of Coloradans are not in the workforce — a far larger number than those who are officially unemployed. See Returning to Work After COVID-19
  • Identify how their barriers could be reduced through policy changes (E.g. access to child or elder care, criminal record exclusions, potential loss of disability-related support services if employed, etc.)
  • Identify and build out elements of “a pathway to the pathway”. Identify how to bridge gaps between where people are at and where the skills training and education is happening. Highlight promising practices in this area.
  • Research use of “Ability to Benefit” provisions to allow those without a high school diploma to still access a Pell grant to acquire training for eligible career pathways.
  • Track how federal and state workforce dollars are used. Review outcomes data. Are funds reaching those in rural areas? Is there demographic data about who benefits most from increased federal and state funding- by race, age, educational level, previous or current job sectors, etc.

Goal #7: Improve consumer information on education and training opportunities, costs, and outcomes.

The State has been consolidating much consumer information on the My Colorado Journey website, which is helpful for those using the site. The Skills2Compete–Colorado role is to link community-based organizations helping people seeking training and employment with the work being done and opportunities available.

  • Provide more information on pathways to careers, especially for adults. Education, skills acquisition, and retraining opportunities should be lifelong, and include affordable and free options
  • Encourage the development of sector partnerships in sectors where people with barriers to employment tend to work, e.g. hospitality, retail.
  • Support inclusion of outcomes data — program specific earnings, student loan default rates, etc. — for private occupational schools in comparative state website.
  • Build on the state government work to define high quality industry recognized credentials, and learn the usefulness of credentials in the employment market:
    • Which credentials are most sought out by employers?
    • Which credentials seem to have only limited value to employers?
    • How does that information get out to jobseekers?
    • Do job seekers in rural Colorado have access to short term credentials?

Goal #8: Link/integrate systems to better serve people

By systems, we mean Colorado Department of Labor and workforce centers, Colorado Department of Human Services and public benefits, Department of Corrections, Department of Local Affairs, homeless service providers, Colorado Department of Education and adult education service providers, Colorado Department of Higher Education, the local community one lives in, and one’s own family members. Actual people often must navigate multiple systems.

  • Identify examples of systems integration with the workforce component
  • Capture the landscape of system isolation vs integration in Colorado in a written report, based on interviews with staff from various agencies
  • Produce a webinar on the topic

Goal #9: Advocate for improved job quality

Beyond channeling people into high paid, high demand, high skills jobs, we need people for work that is currently very low-paid. All workers should be able to enhance their skills and move toward self-sufficiency. Many of the jobs currently open are essential to us all, but have low pay, no flexibility, are more dangerous, and garner little respect.

  • Caregivers of young and elderly need adequate pay, respect, access to benefits, and the opportunity to enhance their skills. Support such proposals.
  • Advocate to employment support for education and training at the entry levels of their organizations. (Upskilling)
  • Support access to education, training, and opportunities for upward mobility among “gig” and contract workers.

About Skills2Compete–Colorado

Skills2Compete–Colorado is a multi-sector coalition that includes representatives from adult education, post-secondary education, workforce development, business, and the advocacy arena. We are the Colorado affiliate of the National Skills Coalition. Through outreach, research, and advocacy, Skills2Compete promotes policies that bridge the gap between the jobs employers offer now and in the near future, and the skills that current job seekers have today. Skills2Compete focuses on skills training from adult basic education through middle-skills jobs.

For more information, contact:

Chaer Robert, Coordinator
Colorado Center on Law and Policy

789 N Sherman St #300
Denver, CO  80203

303-573-5669 x307

https://copolicy.org/skills2compete
@skill2competeco

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.