While unemployment is low, there is a gap between the skilled employees needed and those seeking jobs.
What we think:
High schools, community colleges and universities should work together to train the next generation of workers.
Tell us what you think:
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In Colorado Springs, the unemployment rate sits at 3.8 percent. In nearby Pueblo, the unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.
Around the city, job fairs try to match the unemployed — or underemployed — with available jobs. And there are a lot of those. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, there are 11,000 job vacancies in Colorado Springs.
So what’s the problem? It’s workforce development. The people seeking work do not have the skills needed to match the job openings.
Officials say that hundreds of employers attend local job fairs, along with about 1,000 job seekers each time, but few matches are made.
It’s a scenario that plays out all over the country. As jobs become increasingly high-tech, there are people left behind because they lack the skills to fill what were once guaranteed positions in construction or manufacturing.
And there’s no easy, quick solution. The only way out of the conundrum is by educating people for today’s jobs. While community colleges and high schools are leading the way in creating that workforce, more needs to be done for the current crop of high school graduates.
We need to make sure that those students have the tools they need to get a job. We need to let parents know that there are paths to success that don’t require a four-year university degree. And we need to provide the necessary training to get them there.
The local business community needs to support those efforts. High schools, community colleges and universities all need to know what businesses need, but also what they believe future needs will be.
While the city demands an advanced education for positions like software development, it also needs people to fill jobs in cybersecurity that only require experience and certifications.
It’s time to get creative and discover ways businesses can work with educational institutions to get people the right training for open jobs. If we can fill the high-tech, high-wage positions, everyone benefits. Jobs grow in service sectors as people have more disposable income. The housing market equalizes with wages, making it easier to afford a home. And the entire economy benefits.
Programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math are vital to the city’s future success — and those that focus on women and minorities are even more important. To create a level playing field, educational opportunities must be available to everyone.
Skilled crafts like construction, plumbing, heating and air conditioning repair need to gain more attention in high school. Those jobs are important; they’re needed; they’re hard to automate. Fewer Millennials are selecting those blue-collar [hands-on careers? or? some other term that makes that unhelpful, divisive old definition disappear?] positions — even though they pay well — because we’re[our culture is currently?] more focused on a four-year college degree.
We’ve made great strides, thanks to changes in local high school curricula, internships for transitioning soldiers at Mount Carmel Center of Excellence and programs at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. But as the city grows, workforce development is going to remain a high priority. Let’s not lose sight of what is important: attracting high-wage jobs and training our workforce for the 21st century and beyond.