Our Workforce Development Recommendations: Direct Impact and Support

Our 2024 Policy Platform focused heavily on workforce development. The platform emphasizes two key themes: researching the workforce landscape and supporting workers. These strategies are designed to position Colorado at the forefront of innovation and sustainable growth while supporting the workers who get us there. In a landscape defined by a 3.3% unemployment rate and the dynamic shifts of the Great Resignation, this platform guides policymakers towards a future where talent strategies not only meet but exceed market demands.

Explore our recommendations for supporting workers below, and our recommendations for researching the workforce landscape in Part II!

Our Recommendations

  1. Expanded Certification Reciprocity for Critical Skilled Trades

As many skilled trade workers get ready to retire, there are not enough new workers ready to replace them. This threatens Colorado’s major policy goals like tackling the climate crisis and housing shortage. Certification Reciprocity would fill the gap by allowing skilled workers from other states to contribute their expertise in areas like electrical work, pipefitting and plumbing. We encourage lawmakers to focus these efforts on professions vital for making our infrastructure more environmentally friendly.

Lawmakers should also consider creating a public education program promoting skilled trade programs in schools and to people seeking new career paths. This way, we not only fix the shortage but also prepare the next generation of skilled workers.

  1. Childcare Tax Credits

To empower working families and ensure a thriving, supported workforce, Colorado should review and consider expanding income tax credits for childcare providers. This recommendation draws inspiration from successful policies in other states, particularly New York.

  1. Investigate Certification Backlog for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

A recent study from the Denver City Auditor uncovered issues in awarding government contracts to disadvantaged businesses, indicating similar problems may exist at the state level or in other large cities in Colorado. Among the issues were long waits for many applicants and contracts offered to businesses that didn’t qualify. Lawmakers should investigate, create a report with policy recommendations and a budget, and then act promptly to rectify the situation.

  1. Work-Based Learning Opportunities

Building on recent legislative progress, our platform recommends additional funding and incentives directed toward high-quality, work-based learning opportunities. We recommend the funding prioritize trades facing workforce shortages and industries leading the transition to a clean energy future.

  1. Fair Chance Hiring & Retention Incentives

When employers hire and retain people with justice-impacted backgrounds, this not only reduces reoffences—it gives people a chance to rebuild their lives. Drawing inspiration from states like Illinois and California, lawmakers should find ways to reward businesses, especially in renewable energy and skilled trades, for making a positive impact on someone’s future.

  1. Expand Automatic Record Sealing

One in three Coloradans has been involved with the criminal justice system, and a stigmatizing record creates barriers that prevent people from finding housing or employment. Expanding automatic record sealing for nonviolent offenses is a compassionate step that helps people rejoin the workforce and contribute meaningfully to their communities, which then reduces reoffences.

  1. Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Dependent Communities

The lack of focus on just transition programming for the oil and gas industry highlights a major gap in Colorado state policy. Building on HB-1074, we must transition to renewable energy while supporting the workers and communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry.

  1. Increased Heat and Smoke Protections for All Workers

As climate hazards become more common, we recommend that lawmakers ensure employers have plans to keep workers safe on the job. This means giving workers the right gear, breaks in cool places and water when it’s hot. This also includes training workers to stay healthy in extreme conditions and know what to do if someone gets sick from the heat or pollution.

  1. Displaced Fossil Fuel Worker Program Fund

The decline of fossil fuel industries shouldn’t leave people behind. We recommend the creation of safety nets for people whose jobs are lost, including wage replacement, fully funded pensions, free college or trade school tuition and more.

  1. Enhanced Whistleblower Protection Measures

We recommend strengthening the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower (PHEW) law to protect employees who courageously speak up about environmentally harmful or potentially fraudulent actions by their employers. This ensures a safer and more honest workplace for all.

  1. Orphaned Well Plugging & Remediation Labor Standards and Workforce Development

We encourage lawmakers to use funds from the Orphan Well Enterprise to train workers who have lost their jobs in the energy industry to safely seal off or clean up unused oil and gas wells. This both addresses environmental concerns and provides employment opportunities for those affected by changes in the energy sector.

  1. Ensure Good Jobs in the Low Carbon Economy

Building off of the successes with SB23-292, we encourage lawmakers to use funding for climate projects to create jobs that pay well and have good benefits, while specifically recruiting workers affected by the shift from fossil fuels.

  1. Expand Heat Pump Accessibility and Workforce Development

Heat pumps are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to heat and cool buildings. We encourage lawmakers to embrace this with policies requiring installation in new buildings. Then, we encourage funding, support and training for current HVAC professionals and industry newcomers.