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State’s ‘Master Plan’ Prepares Coloradans For Changing Workforce

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The state wants 66 percent of Coloradans to have a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025.

Colorado has one of the best employment markets in the country. By 2020 more than 70 percent of those jobs will require some type of advanced degree. But right now, there are not enough qualified workers to fill those positions – only 56 percent of residents have postsecondary education.

Last September, the Colorado Department of Higher Education released a master plan to boost education attainment. The goal of Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development is to increase the number of residents with a certificate, 2-year or 4-year degree to 66 percent by 2025.

KUNC’s Stephanie Daniel spoke with Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Department of Higher Education, to learn more about the master plan.

Interview highlights

Why was Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development created?

Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director, Department of Higher Education

Dr. Kim Hunter Reed: It’s important that we make sure that we are focused on talent development for two urgent reasons. One, the knowledge economy is changing … you need many more skills than before. The second piece of urgency that we have is our demographic is changing. So students who are less likely to complete high school, to enroll in college or complete college, those are the demographics that are growing in our state – many more Hispanic students.

Speaking of changing demographics – one of the four goals in the plan focuses on erasing equity gaps. What does this mean?

Reed: We have the second highest equity gap. The gap is measured by the white population that has an educational attainment level compared to the Hispanic population … (We) want to erase equity gaps because we know that our minority students and our low-income students tend to lag economically. They tend to lag educationally, so we have to have some intentionality around trying to ensure that more students and more students of color have all of the opportunities that are available to them.

What factors will affect the success of Colorado Rises?

Reed: Colorado is a state that is a low-investment state in higher education. Not unique in the United States, but we are one of the lowest in the country. And so, if we do not ensure and protect the affordability of access to education less students will be able to participate – no matter how academically prepared they are.

The “American Dream” was coined in 1931 and since then the phrase has inspired people to work hard and dream big. But is it achievable today? Graduating from college is challenging, jobs are changing, and health care and basic rights can be a luxury. I report on the barriers people face and overcome to succeed and create a better life for themselves and their families.
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