What’s next for Colorado’s workforce? Takeaways from RMWDA 2018

Takeaways RMWDA

Last week the Skillful team made its way to the Rocky Mountain Workforce Development Association’s (RMWDA) 2018 conference in Vail, Colorado. This year’s conference was aptly named “SkillUP” to emphasize the importance of acquiring and honing skills in today’s rapidly changing economy.

The conference has historically been reserved for those in public workforce; this year, the organizers decided to open it up to all workforce participants — a reflection of the impact of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) here in Colorado. As Skillful CEO Beth Cobert said in her opening remarks, “This opening is well-timed, for we are all at a turning point. As artificial intelligence, automation, and other technological advances transform the way we work, millions of Americans and countless Coloradans feel uncertain about their future…it will be us, working together, who will help write Colorado’s economic future.”

I led sessions and workshops and participated in many others and can tell you that the energy and excitement were palpable as people connected and learned from one another. Seeing workforce centers, their boards, educators, nonprofits, and others dedicated to addressing Colorado’s most pressing workforce needs come together to better serve job seekers was truly inspiring.


Takeaways from RMWDA 2018


Many of the conference’s sessions emphasized changing workforce trends in Colorado —highlights included a keynote from Elizabeth Garner, a demographer with the state, who talked about Colorado’s aging population and emphasized healthcare’s attendant growth. Lee Wheeler-Berliner from the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and Curtis Englehart from the Mesa County Workforce Center led us through an overview of system alignment and innovative efforts to streamline workforce delivery. The presentation illustrated how Colorado is a true workforce leader and has created a system that grows and changes along with our dynamic state.

Lori Strauss, from the AARP Foundation, also talked about the state’s older population, and along with Chalesah Gonzales from Arapahoe/Douglas Works! and myself, walked a group through the AARP’s BACK TO WORK 50+ program, which connects struggling Americans 50+ with the information, support, training, and employer access they need to regain employment, advance in the workforce, and build financial capability and resiliency to prevent them from slipping into poverty later in life. We’re excited to bring this program to more providers in Colorado so they can meet the demands of the state’s rapidly aging population.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the conference for me was elevating the work of the first Skillful Governor’s Coaching Corps and announcing the program’s second cohort. During the first Corps, the cohort divided into action teams and explored pressing workforce issues; at the end of their program in June, they presented their recommendations to state workforce leaders. Last week at the conference, they had the opportunity to share their findings with their colleagues and others in the workforce system. Seeing how their presentations galvanized their audiences was energizing. Many of the members of the second cohort were able to attend presentations from the inaugural Corps, so they’ll hit the ground running when we launch the second Corps in a few weeks!

During the conference, we also debuted “Skill Works: Skills-Based Hiring for the Public Sector,” a guide designed to help state leaders and hiring managers in the public sector transition from traditional hiring practices, which rely heavily on proxies for skills to skills-based hiring practices, which focus on the skills needed to do a job well. The tool, currently in draft form, can be customized to fit employers’ needs.

Jacqueline Jones, Strategic Partnerships Lead for Global Inclusion at LinkedIn, shared her insights on how LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can be used to better serve job seekers. Her presentation aligned well with a theme across the conference: how to leverage technology to serve job seekers more effectively and efficiently.

I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for Colorado’s workforce system. If this conference is any indication, we’re well-equipped to face the changes ahead.

Were you at RMWDA 2018? What was most interesting to you? Let me know in the comments below!