Whether you're judging by the mountains, the beer, or the state's strong economy, we can all agree that Colorado is an impressive state. This includes a historically low unemployment rate that leads the nation. And while this is good news for the state's economy, there is still work to be done to ensure all Coloradans can access opportunities for great careers in a changing workforce landscape.
While Colorado's unemployment rate has sat at a record-low 2.3 percent during the past two months, a deeper dig into the numbers reveals that some workers are struggling to find more fulfilling opportunities. For instance, unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics throughout the state are close to 5 percent, while communities such as Pueblo are seeing rates of around 4 percent.-
Then there are Coloradans who are working - but not as much as they want to be. During the first quarter of 2017, 92,000 Coloradans classified themselves as "involuntary parttime workers" - or those working fewer than 35 hours a week who want full-time jobs.
At the same time, we are seeing record-high job openings across the country with many employers reporting difficulties in finding the right workers for open positions. It's clear that the workforce development strategies of yesterday aren't working in today's economy - particularly for the seven in 10 Americans without a college degree.
Developing solutions that align our labor market with a 21st-century digital economy is our country's most important workforce challenge as automation and artificial intelligence continue to reshape the available jobs. But this challenge also presents a remarkable opportunity to empower all Americans with new tools for thriving in a 21st century digital economy.
In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper and state economic officials are seizing on this by supporting innovative ideas to prepare workers for these rapid economic changes. This is why the Markle Foundation chose to launch Skillful here in Colorado in 2016. Backed by detailed labor market data, coaching supports, and technology tools such as LinkedIn's Training Finder, Skillful provides workers in Colorado with pathways to opportunity by prioritizing skills and removing the barriers that keep talented people from applying for in-demand jobs.
Skillful is doing this by bringing together the entire Colorado workforce ecosystem - including employers, state leaders, educators, and workforce boards - to develop a skills-based labor market that is geared toward ensuring jobseekers can better understand and obtain the skills needed to compete in a 21st-century workforce.
We are seeing how this approach to skills training is reshaping attitudes among both workers and employers in Colorado. We have collaborated with 100 small and medium-sized employers to inform our skills research and employer toolkit, with 20 employers working closely with us to move toward skills-based employment.
As digital technologies continue to reshape our economy and workforce, we need to consider how the labor market must adjust along with it and take concrete steps to effect those changes. Now more than ever, American workers are hungry to learn job skills that will open the door for career opportunities.
Beth Cobert is the CEO of Skillful and Andi Rugg is executive director of Skillful Colorado.