“I Didn’t Want to Leave My Home”: Skillful West End Project Helps Keep Local Talent Local in Rural Colorado

When Tanya Narramore from Naturita, a town in rural Southwest Colorado, was laid off from her job at the New Horizon coal mine in nearby Nucla, she didn’t know what her next step would be. She was not alone; the company’s workers had known for some time that New Horizon was closing, but few knew what they would do after.

In Tanya’s 15 years at the mine, she had learned how to operate different kinds of machinery, including a bulldozer and a blade; she had also worked as an off-road haul truck driver. While she had valuable skills, she didn’t know how she would transfer them to another job in or near Naturita, a small town with less than 1,000 residents and with no large cities within a 100-mile radius.

Tanya knew that relocating would likely improve her job prospects but was hesitant to move. “I’m from Naturita and didn’t want to leave. My mom and brother are here, everything I love to do, fishing, driving in the hills, riding my ATV, is here.”

Picture of a canyon in Colorado.
Colorado's West End is turning toward tourism and new business as its extraction economy fades.


Determined to stay in her community, Tanya started looking for work. “I soon realized that looking for a job today looks really different than it did then,” she said. “It’s crazy to me that employers don’t want you to even come into the office in person to get an application. They all say, ‘Apply online.’”

Eager for some guidance on how to find a job in this new world of work, Tanya reached out to Carla Reams, a Program Manager of the Skillful West End Project, an initiative from Skillful Colorado and the Telluride Foundation that focuses on keeping local talent local.

“Carla had come to the mine on my last day,” said Tanya. “When we connected, she told me about an opportunity at the Montrose County Road and Bridge, which I wouldn’t have known about had she not mentioned it. I’m used to looking to the local newspaper for jobs, and they had not put an ad there.”

Carla helped Tanya revise her resume to focus on the skills she had: “I put down all my operating experience with heavy machinery, which would be useful in the Road and Bridge position,” Tanya said. “Carla also helped me apply online.”

Tanya learned from Montrose County Road and Bridge that she would need to obtain a CDL for the position. “I needed a commercial driver’s license. The county used to allow employees to obtain a CDL while on the job, but that was no longer the case. I took the written portion of the test and passed it, then met with Carla and she helped find a program where I could take the driving training.” The class Tanya took was three weeks long, and included one week of online training and two weeks of driving school. The Montrose Workforce Center paid for her training through the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) program.

Tanya was somewhat hesitant about attending the driving school and said that Carla encouraged her to persevere.

After obtaining her CDL license, she met again with Carla to update her resume to include the CDL and driving certification. “I got the job! I started April 15th!” 

Of her experience with the Skillful West End Project, Tanya said, “For people who will be losing their jobs at the power plant, or for anyone who may need help in applying for a job, I highly recommend that they work with Carla—she can help connect them to job and training opportunities. She was a huge help.”

 “Skillful’s focus is to encourage employers to emphasize skills-based hiring practices rather than credentials when seeking candidates,” said Carla. “We are also working with job seekers so they can more adequately articulate the skills they have acquired when applying for work. This approach not only helps employers find and hire the skilled talent they need in a tight labor market, but also helps job seekers find rewarding work. Tanya’s journey, though already skills-based, illustrates how her skills, coupled with help navigating today’s labor market, positioned her to find a career match where she can flourish.” 

If you are interested in learning more about the Skillful West End Project, read our announcement of the project. If you are an employer and want to learn more about how skills-based hiring can help you attract the skilled talent you need, improve diversity and retention, and more, attend one of our upcoming trainings and check out our free employer resources here

Carla Reams and Tanya Narramore
Carla Reams (left) and Tanya Narramore