Gov. Jared Polis speaks about an executive order to increase the number of apprenticeship programs in the state on Sept. 7, 2023. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wants to expand work-based learning opportunities in order to train potential employees and fill vacancies in state government.
The Democrat signed an executive order Thursday that directs departments in the state’s executive branch to increase the number of apprenticeship programs they offer and build off of work to connect underemployed and unemployed Coloradans with skills they need to work for the state.
“The state, as an employer, is not exempt from the same trends that are affecting other employers,” Polis said during a press conference. “Like many companies and organizations and nonprofits and universities in our state, it’s difficult to fill all of the positions. That threatens our ability to get work done.”
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Polis said that even though there are available jobs for unemployed Coloradans, there is often a mismatch of skills. Apprenticeships build a pathway for people to get training and experience to land full-time employment.
Last year, Polis signed an executive order to increase the number of registered apprenticeship programs in state agencies and departments. Registered apprenticeship programs are overseen by the government to ensure quality and combine learning on the job with related classroom instruction.
Colorado has over 300 active apprenticeship programs with more than 6,000 participants, according to the governor’s office.
Polis’ latest action expands on last year’s order. It sets a goal to increase the number of apprenticeships across state departments by 50% by the end of next June, create 10 additional work-based learning programs for positions with high vacancy rates by July 2025 and have every department implement two new work-based learning programs by the end of 2025.
Work-based learning programs include apprenticeships, internships or fellowships.
Seven of 19 state agencies currently have registered apprenticeship programs, state officials said.
Additionally, the executive order directs the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to support private-sector employers with development of their own apprenticeship programs, with the goal to add 100 more by the end of next June.
Polis said the work will prioritize roles where the state sees significant vacancies, such as transportation, maintenance, corrections, nursing, teaching, social work, human resources, administrative assistants and information technology.
He was surrounded by dozens of officials on Thursday who support the push in apprenticeship, including state Sen. James Coleman, state Sen. Tom Sullivan, state Rep. David Ortiz, state Rep. Sheila Lieder — all Democrats — along with Office of Economic Development Director Eve Lieberman, Department of Labor and Employment Director Joe Barela and Office of the Future of Work Director Katherine Keegan.
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