SKILLFUL is building a model that can ultimately be scaled across the country. Given our focus on the middle-skills demographic—workers with high school diplomas, but little or no college education—we looked first to locations rich in those populations. We chose our launch partners, Colorado and Phoenix, for a number of reasons: their proven commitment to job and opportunity creation, education and innovation, as well as their dedication to building partnerships that improve the lives of their citizens.
In both locations, employers are already collaborating with educators in ways that we hope to learn from and build upon. To begin shaping a solution to the middle skills gap, SKILLFUL will use real-time data, advanced technology tools and traditional outreach methods to complement and accelerate local efforts. Our ultimate goal? To create clearer career pathways—and build a more qualified workforce.
Thanks to the fastest-growing economy in the country, a consistently robust business climate and innovative workforce development strategies, Colorado has been selected as the first statewide launch site for SKILLFUL. In our meetings with local employers, educators, job seekers and community leaders, we have consistently seen both openness to and opportunities for innovative approaches to workforce development. What we’ve learned in Colorado:
1. Employer-educator partnerships are critical, with in-house training programs helping to fill the pipeline with reliable, motivated talent;
2. The skills gap is real, with a dire shortage in advanced manufacturing that has resulted in employers “poaching” the most qualified talent;
3. Desirable jobs require higher education: 81% of top jobs (as defined by the Colorado Talent Pipeline) require some post-secondary education;
4. Middle-skill jobs are hard to fill in Colorado, with jobs crossing all industries taking 16% longer to fill, and manufacturing jobs taking 40% longer to fill.
With strong population growth and impressive educational institutions—including the nation’s largest community college system—the greater Phoenix area has been selected as our municipal launch site for SKILLFUL. In our meetings with local employers, educators, job seekers and community leaders, we have consistently seen both openness to and opportunities for innovative approaches to workforce development. What we’ve learned in Phoenix:
1. Opportunity exists, but pathways are not always clear—there is no single source to guide educators and students through career choices;
2. Employers can’t find enough qualified local workers, particularly in fast-growing industries like technology, and are forced to import talent;
3. Educators are eager to collaborate with employers to ensure that their training programs adequately prepare students for their careers of choice.
The path for change is clear in both Phoenix and Colorado. SKILLFUL looks forward to providing employers, educators and job seekers with a comprehensive and cohesive resource that not only changes lives at the individual level—but also helps to shift national perspectives.