Strengthening Colorado’s Workforce: Governor Polis and Bipartisan Legislators Unveil Legislative Package to Support Training and Education for Colorado Workers

Thursday, March 7, 2024

DENVER - Today, Governor Polis and bipartisan legislators, including Speaker Julie McCluskie, Rep. Meghan Lukens, Rep. Matt Soper, Sen. James Coleman, Sen. Jeff Bridges, and Sen. Mark Baisley, announced legislation to continue strengthening Colorado’s workforce and breaking down barriers to lower-cost education and training pathways.

“Colorado’s innovative approach to connecting more Coloradans with the training and skills they need to get good-paying jobs is an example for the rest of the country, and we are proud to do more with this legislative package. I want to thank the bipartisan group of legislators who continue working to support Colorado workers and businesses.,” said Governor Jared Polis. 

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Lukens, Rep. Soper and Sen. Bridges builds on the success of Opportunity Now, a grant program that has awarded $27 million to 46 grantees representing 145 business and 78 education partners in 38 industries. These grants help connect more Coloradans with in-demand, high-skill, high-wage careers. This bill will support a fourth and final round of grants, investing in building and construction trades specifically. It also creates an annual refundable tax credit to increase the capacity of training providers in industries receiving transformative federal investment (IIJA/IRA/CHIPS). Finally, this bill will create regional summits that will improve regional talent planning.

“The success of Opportunity Now programs has helped Coloradans across the state secure good-paying jobs while meeting our diverse workforce needs,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs. “This bipartisan bill introduces the final round of funding for this program with an important focus on the construction and building trades. The demand for skilled electricians, plumbers and general contractors is rising, and this bill boosts our construction workforce and helps drive local economies.” 

“We have seen the success of Opportunity Now in communities across the state, including the Western Slope. I look forward to continuing this work and helping even more Coloradans get training, secure strong jobs, and build a stronger future for themselves,” said Rep. Matt Soper.

“Opportunity is a core Colorado value, and every Coloradan should have the opportunity to earn a good life," said Senator Jeff Bridges, D-Arapahoe County. "That opportunity often starts with a good education, one that's aligned with good-paying jobs in a person's community. Making sure that what schools teach matches what businesses need is exactly what the Opportunity Now grant does, leading to better wages for workers, a well-trained workforce for our employers, and a stronger Colorado economy for everyone."

An effort to expand apprenticeship opportunities through a new tax credit, sponsored by Sen. Coleman and Sen. Baisley, provides $30 million in annual, refundable tax credits to support apprentices in new and emerging industries, $2 million for businesses looking to start or scale an apprenticeship program, and $2 million for qualified intermediaries who support the administration of apprenticeship programs. 

“I’m committed to paving the way for equitable access to opportunity, so that all Coloradans have the chance to get ahead – and a key way we can do that is by investing in our workforce,” Senate President Pro Tem James Coleman, D-Denver, said. “We’re bringing forward resources that will expand existing programs and increase the adoption of registered apprenticeships. These investments can create more than 8,000 new apprenticeships, and give Coloradans the opportunities they need to succeed.”

Legislators are also acting on the recommendations of the 1215 Task Force by introducing legislation to study the cost of streamlining the administration and financing of postsecondary workforce readiness programs to the state and local education providers. It also lays the foundation for a data system to measure the impact and outcomes of education and workforce programs. This bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Speaker McCluskie, Rep. Bacon, Sen. Bridges and Sen. Lundeen.  

“Investing in our workforce requires us to establish career pathways that will lead to good-paying jobs for Coloradans in communities across the state, especially in our rural and mountain communities,” said Speaker McCluskie, D-Dillon. “This legislation lays the groundwork to set Colorado learners on a path toward economic success and career mobility by making it easier for them to access the college credits, industry credentials, or quality work-based learning experiences already in place. Together, we’re investing in our workforce, strengthening local economies and making it easier for Coloradans to thrive in the communities that they love.”

“Traditional education methods face the challenge of developing curricula that are relevant to industry. Apprenticeships provide direct application for technical training. The Scale Up Grants are a practical way for the Colorado State Government to encourage employers to engage workers with skills that can be directly put to use. An employee who has worked through these apprenticeships will find fulfillment in the tremendous value that they immediately bring to Colorado companies,” said Senator Baisley.

Other workforce focused bills introduced in the legislature include:

  • HB24-1231: State Funding for Higher Education Projects, which invests in Colorado's healthcare workforce by providing funding for the UNC Medical School, Metro State’s Health Institute Tower, Colorado State University’s Veterinary Health Education Campus, and expansion and renovation of Trinidad State College’s Valley Campus main building. Sponsored by Reps. Young & Daugherty, Sens. Kirkmeyer & Mullica. 

  • SB24-104: Career and Technical Education and Apprenticeships, which connects K-12 students interested in technical careers with workforce opportunities. Sponsored by Sen. Danielson. 

  • HB24-1097: Military Family Occupational Credentialing, which would expand the occupational credential portability program to include gold star military spouses and military dependents and broadens the scope to include the Armed Forces Reserve, Ready Reserve, and National Guard. Sponsored by Reps. Taggart & Weissman, Sens. Fields & Gardner.

  • SB24-050: Funding for Workforce Programs, which invests in scaling nonprofit and apprenticeship programs that train Coloradans for in-demand industries. Sponsored by Sen. Exum. 

  • SB24-143: Credential Quality Apprenticeship Classification, which builds on previous efforts to develop more stackable credentials. Sponsored by Sens. Zenzinger & Coleman, Rep. Herod. 

  • HB24-1264: Supporting the Educator Workforce, which provides various supports for an online career support and pathways portal for educators with access to career incentives, job postings, and applications. Sponsored by Reps. McLachlan & Catlin, Sens. Zenzinger & Simpson.