Colorado’s Hickenlooper Signs Bill to Prepare Students for Workforce

(Photo: Washington Times)

(Photo: Washington Times)

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed an important part of the jobs package launched this year by his state’s lawmakers aimed at creating an incentives-based pilot program that will enable high school students to have the tools they need to enter the working world. The program is also directed at creating a more robust and competitive state workforce.

Both Republicans and Democrats are working on the state’s jobs package that is in place to create well-paying work opportunities for Colorado’s youth, veterans, and the chronically unemployed, writes Joey Bunch of The Denver Post.

Under HB 16-1289 – Incentives to Complete Career Development Courses – school districts and charter schools will offer financial incentives to assist students in attaining industry certifications that link to in-demand jobs. The extra funding will also drive students to finish demanding workplace training programs that relate to current enterprise requirements, and will help develop a computer science Advanced Placement course, according to Jon Pompia of The Pueblo Chieftain.

For every student who completes one of the bill’s educational standards, a district or charter school will be given $1,000.

Ryan McWilliams, a local businessperson, told those present at the signing that businesses and industries are looking at the strength of a city’s educational program as one of the most important considerations when choosing where they will set up their commercial enterprises. He added that the new bill will signify that vocational education is valued and is a crucial part of having a bona fide workforce.

“Seventy percent of our kids, not just in Colorado but across the country, aren’t going to get a college degree,” Hickenlooper told the gallery. “I think it makes sense to do things like this and provide some motivation and incentives for kids that don’t want to go to college. Let them get out there earlier and begin to taste what it’s like to work.”

“And it doesn’t just have to be trades. I think ultimately this kind of a program will adapt itself to the insurance industry, the banking industry, all kinds of places.”

Legislators supporting the bill were also at the signing, including Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), Sen. Leroy Garcia (D- Pueblo), and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

The governor added that students involved in the new program would also be collecting a “living resume” that will continue to develop with them throughout their lives and careers. Pueblo City School officials at the signing said it would allow more students to graduate from high school with an advanced diploma. The incentives program will begin in the 2017 academic year, reports Lena Howland for KOAA-TV.

McWilliams explained that he had many positions to be filled in his business from high-tech computer design to the overall labor force. He noted that he would like to see young professionals from the city of Pueblo filling those openings.

Gov. Hickenlooper continued by stating that the program would make magic happen by blending business and schools in a way that allows kids to graduate from high school with training toward a trade.

The bill includes $1 million, which should be enough to help 1,000 students, reports Carl Winder for KRDO-TV.