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Two new bills could mean more Coloradans would have workforce training paid for by the state

Colorado Governor Jared Polis stands behind a podium that has a sign on it saying "Boosting Colorado's Workforce and Economy." Behind Polis are several supporters.
Lucas Brady Woods
Gov. Jared Polis (pictured at the podium) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced two new bills that would expand access to workforce training in the west foyer of the State Capitol on Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2023.

Gov. Jared Polis and a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled two new bills Tuesday in an effort to expand access to job training and education. They are expected to be officially introduced in the General Assembly this week.

One of the bills would create a new scholarship program that would target industries with worker shortages, such as mental and physical healthcare, manufacturing, construction, finance, engineering, STEM fields, IT and education. High school students graduating in 2024 would be eligible for about fifteen hundred dollars each, which could be used to pay for an apprenticeship, trade school, community college or university.

“We want to make sure that more Coloradans can access good jobs,” Gov. Polis said Tuesday. “It's good for individuals to earn a living, saves them money, and it's good for our economy and necessary for our continued growth and success.”

A second bill would cover the cost of tuition, fees and materials for certain associate degree and industry certificate programs. It focuses on high-demand jobs like teaching, firefighting, law enforcement, forest management, nursing and construction. The bill’s sponsors, including House Speaker Julie McCluskie, say it would benefit twenty-thousand Coloradans over two years.

“Crucial industries are facing significant workforce shortages,” McCluskie said. “Our bill boosts our workforce, helps build positions in critical industries, gets more Coloradans on the path to the profession of their dreams and the Colorado dream they want to pursue, and it will help all of us see our communities grow and thrive.”

The bill would dedicate about $45 million from the State’s General fund, and is based on Care Forward Colorado, another workforce development program that Polis launched last year.

Care Forward Colorado specifically focused on expanding the healthcare workforce. It pays for training to be certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, medical assistants, dental assistants, pharmacy technicians and others, and is funded by about $26 million in COVID relief money.

I’m the Statehouse Reporter at KUNC, which means I help make sense of the latest developments at the Colorado State Capitol. I cover the legislature, the governor, and government agencies.