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Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

With no issue more important to Colorado’s future than economic growth, the state’s Workforce Development Council met in Denver on March 17-18 to discuss the challenges ahead and the progress being made in building a highly skilled and adaptable workforce.

Jessie Ruiz of Holyoke is one of 54 members from throughout the state representing business, labor, government and community service providers, each bringing a unique perspective to the issue of moving Colorado forward.

A key focus of the two-day summit was on how collaboration can help communities and Colorado as a whole find workable solutions. The Workforce Development Council places a premium on collaboration.

In addition to its own membership coming from across the state, its work is grounded in regional Workforce Investment Boards addressing a range of community issues. The Council provides support and a statewide perspective to each of their local plans.

That locally driven emphasis underscores Governor Hickenlooper’s own “Bottom Up” approach to economic development. “Rising to the challenge of crafting an economic strategy that resonates across the state requires us to keep local concerns at the forefront,” the governor says. “It requires that we listen to and learn from all of the stakeholders and respect the differences between communities and economies. It requires focusing on the new, the possible, the future.”

Ellen Golombek is executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment. “The workforce development solutions we put in place have to be equally responsive to the needs of workers and their families and to employers,” she stresses, “because when we ensure that Colorado’s workforce is the best it can be, we are advancing commerce and creating a better economy. Helping workers and helping business aren’t mutually exclusive; they are intertwined.”

Lt. Governor Joe Garcia told the council that the priority must be to address the barriers to improved workforce development. “The governor and I share a common perspective on getting things done,” he told council members. “We aren’t interested in partisan wins; we’re interested in finding practical solutions. To do that, we need a seamless system that attracts business and creates a pathway for people to get the preparation they need to become a part of the workforce to support those businesses.”

On March 17 and 18, the players and components of that seamless system began to emerge—and with them, the challenges and pitfalls that stand in the way. Opportunities also await, and making sure Colorado is ready for those opportunities is the goal of the Workforce Development Council.