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GUEST COLUMN: Sector partnerships ensure a stronger Colorado workforce

By: Dave Csintyan
September 20, 2014 Updated: September 20, 2014 at 4:05 am
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"Sector partnerships" is a term you'll be hearing more frequently in the months ahead. Business leaders are joining together with the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and local partners to develop sector partnerships across the state. Sector partnerships are a highly effective and efficient way to ensure that Colorado workers will have access to the skills and training needed by Colorado employers and that every Colorado business has access to a skilled workforce ready to produce at a high level.

You may have heard of the manufacturing and hospitality partnerships working in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. Partnerships like these were acknowledged nationally as a proven and effective model when the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act was signed into law July 22. The act highlights sector partnerships as a key component in promoting and sustaining economic vitality.

Our state is home to about 
36 partnerships in various stages of evolution across 14 economic regions.

Our region, which includes El Paso, Teller and Park counties, has sector partnerships in Advanced Manufacturing and Hospitality with discussions about health care as our next partnership focus.

The Colorado Workforce Development Council is leading the way as more of these partnerships are developed to ensure that educational programs and institutions, economic development efforts and workforce training programs are aligned with the real needs of the businesses and industries that produce economic vitality in our state.

These partnerships are highly effective because they are business driven and business led. This puts them in a position to identify, understand and react to rapid changes in technology, market conditions and regulatory requirements. Working together with education, workforce and economic development efforts, sector partnerships keep workforce training and education on target to meet the rapidly changing needs of business, industry, students and job seekers.

We don't have to look very far to see that the payoffs from these sector partnerships can be impressive:

- The Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Partnership is led by nearly all the major hospitals and ambulatory care systems in Metro Denver, with three workforce regions, and key post-secondary educators. The industry led partnership focuses on in-demand and difficult-to-fill occupations, and as a result, has seen a placement rate of individuals from this program into employment at a rate over 90 percent. Additionally, $1.43 in earnings goes back into the community, for every dollar invested by the partnership.

- The Northern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership was launched less than a year ago and is led by manufacturers in Larimer and Weld counties with a focus on supply chain and networking, rebranding the image of manufacturing, and vocational and technical education. Their rebranding effort is engaging youth and getting them excited about manufacturing careers. In just the past the past few months, they have sponsored more than 
60 high school students in tours of six manufacturing facilities.

- More than 1,100 people have received training through Colorado's pilot sector partnerships in the last four years and 93 percent received industry-recognized credentials, resulting in over 83 percent entering employment, retaining employment, or advancing in their careers as a result of the industry aligned training programs.

This region (El Paso, Teller and Park counties) has four representatives, each appointed by the governor, on the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

Our participation puts us in a position to represent the interests of our region and to observe the "best practices" that are demonstrating success in other regions. These successful partnership programs, both in-state and inter-state can then be adopted and adapted to benefit businesses, job seekers and students.

We applaud the efforts of each person and organization involved in our region's sector partnership development activity. Their efforts will reach far and wide in the months and years to come. Partnerships that are in the early stages today will be advanced and paying big dividends in prosperity, economic vitality and progress tomorrow.

We encourage others to learn and to get involved in the development of sector partnerships. Impressive outcomes are fully achievable when we put business, education, economic development and workforce in the same sentence.

We have much going for us and using sector partnerships as a primary vehicle to achieve our desired outcomes is, indeed, the Smart Way Forward.

You can learn more at www.sectorssummit.com or by calling the Pikes Peak Workforce Center at 667-3760.

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Dave Csintyan is chief executive officer 
of See The Change USA.

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