By Lorna Gutierrez

A new web-based platform will connect workforce programs at several area school districts and schools with employers. Developed by the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, the UCCS Economic Forum and the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, the Workforce Asset Map is designed to inform employers which workforce centers are available throughout the county.

Tatiana Bailey, executive director of the UCCS Economic Forum; Aikta Marcoulier, executive director of the Pikes Peak Small Business Center; and Dana Barton, business relations and employment development director at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, worked to develop the program. Calling themselves the “Workforce Dream Team,” they, along with about 10 other well-intentioned women, brought together UCCS engineering students as well as software engineers to create the map.

What does it do? It’s designed to allow school districts with specialized career programs and pathways for vocations to post their programs online. Harrison School District 2, Widefield School District 3 and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 all have workforce development programs.

The asset map tells employers about the programs and where they are located so they can target graduating seniors to fill available positions.

It’s not a job board — but it does point job searchers to the workforce center’s job board. The map shows compiled and centralized information for employers and potential employees in a user-friendly environment.

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“Many people didn’t know high schools were reinstating middle career paths [such as mechanics],” said Bailey.

But it’s not just for high school students. The platform can be used by veterans, as well as undergraduate and graduate students to find relevant market information, such as hiring numbers within an industry and salary projections.

It also helps employers run internship or apprenticeship programs and give high school and college students much-needed experience in their fields even before graduation, she added.

For schools, it’s a long-awaited tool. Duane Roberson, director of career and technical education for Colorado Springs School District 11, said it’s needed because teachers currently have to build partnerships with organizations to create internship and apprenticeship programs, while local businesses have to go to multiple schools to find potential interns. The map will simplify this process.

“[We’re] hoping the [Workforce Asset Map] can help everyone,” he said.

Bailey said she was surprised to learn about the number of open positions in Colorado Springs, and how many people are unaware of available jobs.

‘Happy accident’

The platform, which is targeting an end-of-summer release, was a “happy accident,” with the idea percolating after a conversation at a UCCS Economic Forum panel about workforce development two years ago, Bailey said.

After the event, a group convened and decided to pursue the map project. They met about every six weeks to create something tangible to meet the community’s needs.

The group received $2,500 for a student intern from the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC and the UCCS Economic Forum. Funding for the platform’s development came from El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs. The platform is being developed at a significantly lower cost because the group is utilizing the UCCS IT department.

A one-stop shop, job seekers can find resources for:

• resumé writing;

• interviewing skills;

• job/internship/apprenticeship search;

• continuing education;

• wage data; and

• job demand and projections.

Employers can learn about the demographics from high school and college programs (such as Pikes Peak Community College and UCCS) and can be directed to appropriate schools to meet with students.

The biggest challenge was making sure the software has everything businesses and schools need without being overwhelming, Marcoulier said. She said integrating the platform as a tool for three subsets — students, employees and businesses — has been one of the toughest tasks.

Bailey, Marcoulier and Barton said they depend on each other’s knowledge and utilize their respective organizations’ resources and areas of expertise, such as the PPWFC’s skills gap survey, which helped provide relevant information about which industries need workers.

“It really serves both sides of the equation,” Marcoulier said.

The platform will be housed at UCCS and quarterly updates will be provided by the workforce center. All other involved entities will also provide data and support.

“There’s no other resource in our region or our state,” said Barton, “that provides this service for job seekers, employers and students.”