Skillful Colorado Announces Skillful West End Project; Pilot Program Seeks to Upskill Rural Talent to Meet Local Business Needs

Two men working project at mine

We’re thrilled to announce that, in partnership with the West End Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC) and the Telluride Foundation, we have launched the Skillful West End Project, a pilot project that seeks to connect local talent to local business in the southwest corner of the state covering western San Miguel and Montrose counties. Funding for the project is provided by Skillful Colorado, an initiative of the Markle Foundation, and the Telluride Foundation.

The Skillful West End Project’s purpose is to help curb job losses in the area, which have historically relied on the jobs resource extraction and agriculture provide. In response to today’s rapidly changing economy, in which such jobs are no longer guaranteed, the project will complement the efforts of the Montrose Workforce Center connecting local workers displaced by economic disruption to local jobs, with a focus on the skills needed to succeed in emerging industries.

“Thanks to our state’s low unemployment rate, Colorado is widely viewed as an economic success story,” said Shannon Block, Executive Director of Skillful Colorado. “However, this rising tide has not lifted all boats. Many Coloradans feel left behind. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Telluride Foundation, WEEDC, and local partners to address this area’s pressing workforce challenges.”

“Montrose and San Miguel counties have experienced many economic ‘booms’ and ‘busts,’” said Elaine Demas, Vice President of Initiatives at the Telluride Foundation. “With the recent closure of the New Horizon coal mine and the imminent closure of the Tri-State coal fired power plant, these communities are preparing for another ‘bust’ period. We are excited to work alongside Skillful Colorado and our West End community partners on solutions that will lend support to the next economic ‘boom.’”

Carla Reams has been contracted to serve as the Program Manager for the Skillful West End Project. A long-time resident of Nucla, Colorado, a town of approximately 700 in the West End, Carla is well positioned to connect local talent to local opportunity.

“I think it’s a great fit for me and I am excited to work with local job seekers and employers and make those connections,” she said. “Not everyone needs a college degree to be a great fit for an organization. We have a lot of talented folks right here in our area that may already have skills being sought after or may just need a little bit of training to gain those skills. The Skillful West End Project will help find the resources for the training, with the end goal being to keep our locals working here.”

About Skillful Colorado, Skillful Indiana, and the Skillful State Network

Skillful, a non-profit initiative of the Markle Foundation, is dedicated to enabling all Americans – particularly those without a four-year college degree – to secure good jobs in a changing economy. In partnership with Microsoft and others, Skillful is developing skills-based training and employment practices in collaboration with state governments, local employers, educators and workforce development organizations. Skillful and its partners are working to create a labor market in which skills are valued, and people can more easily access the information and education they need to keep pace with technology’s impact on work. Skillful currently operates in two states, Skillful Colorado and Skillful Indiana, bringing investment, training, tools and innovative methods to augment local workforce development efforts. It formed and facilitates the Skillful State Network, a collaboration among 20 state governors to accelerate the development and deployment of effective skills-based practices to transform their labor markets. Skillful is grateful for support provided by Walmart, and its partnerships with the states of Colorado and Indiana, Microsoft, Lumina Foundation, Purdue University and Purdue Extensions and many great local organizations committed to strengthening their local workforce and creating better opportunities for all.

About the Telluride Foundation

The Telluride Foundation is committed to enriching the quality of life of the residents and workforce of the Telluride region. It is a nonprofit, apolitical public community foundation that makes grants and runs programs in arts, education, health and human services, community development, and social enterprise. The Foundation strives to achieve excellence for local communities through its mission and core values, including promoting inclusion and maximizing benefit to all. Their work is funded through the generous support of hundreds of donors as well as grants from state and national foundations. Please visit for more information.