The issue: Nationally, quality jobs are disappearing.

What we think: Regional leadership should focus on careers.

Tell us what you think: Send us an email at editorial@csbj.com.

You’ve probably heard it a lot lately: somebody talking about their “2020 vision.” It’s hard to blame them. The coincidence is too perfect. After all, this chance only comes around, well, once.

So we’re jumping on the bandwagon and providing a (very narrow) version of our 2020 vision. And it has everything to do with jobs.

On Nov. 13, Markets Insider published an online piece with this tome of a headline:

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“New Monthly U.S. Employment Metric: The U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI) Shows Aggregate Job Quality for U.S. Workforce Has Deteriorated Steadily Since 1990.”

Researchers at Cornell Law, the Coalition for a Prosperous America, the University of Missouri – Kansas City Department of Economics and the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity launched the U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index tool in November to evaluate the nation’s employment statistics in a more meaningful way and to predict variables.

“This new metric is likely to become a leading economic indicator on American jobs,” the article states.

The piece goes on to report that, “By tracking and measuring the shifting balance between high-wage/high-hours jobs and low-wage/low-hours jobs across time, the JQI shows that an intuitively compelling measure of job quality in the U.S. has deteriorated substantially since 1990, especially since 2006. This in turn goes a long way in explaining both depressed household income growth and overall economic growth below potential notwithstanding ‘good jobs numbers’ over much of the past 30 years.”

Daniel Alpert, a founder of Westwood Capital and one of the creators of the index, told CBS News, “In 1990, the jobs were pretty much evenly divided. We discovered that 63% of all jobs that were created since 1990 were low-wage, low-hour jobs. That was a pretty stunning statistic.”

So how is El Paso County faring?

The Pikes Peak region has long boasted about its affordability, median posted salaries in the $70,000s and a relatively low cost of living. These factors have helped propel the city onto some of the nation’s most sought-after “best places” lists.

But affordability is declining. The median home price here now exceeds the national average by $50,000. And while other indices show southern Colorado is still more affordable than the northern part of the state and the nation as a whole, housing alone has driven the cost of living in the Springs area higher than the national average.

El Paso County still holds it appeal compared to the rest of the state, but what can we in the Pikes Peak region do tobuild a steadily growing supply of quality jobs?

Some things have already been done.

From an education perspective, there are more opportunities available to nontraditional and lower-income students thanks to Pikes Peak Community College’s partnership with Harrison School District 2 to provide full-ride scholarships to all qualifying high school graduates. Colorado College announced this year that it is lowering tuition costs for lower-income students, to include providing a free education to students whose family income qualifies. Increasing these kinds of incentives will only boost the number of educated employees in the local talent pool, attracting businesses that offer quality jobs.

The region must increase efforts to maximize the benefits of public/private partnerships that provide resources and physical space to thriving industries, especially advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and information technology. Those partnerships differentiate the region from much of the rest of the country.

Lastly, Colorado Springs should continue to focus on creating amenities that attract and retain talent. The new Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame is slated to open in 2020. Soon after, the downtown stadium project is planned to wrap up, providing a long-term home for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer club and an outdoor concert and event venue. A brand new Robson Arena will act as the on-campus home rink for the Colorado College Tigers hockey team and could play host to Olympic and Paralympic events. New downtown living opportunities are sprouting up on city block after city block and are walking distance from many of these amenities. Transportation issues are being addressed, blighted areas of town are being revitalized and outside retailers are scurrying to be part of this rapidly growing and highly desirable landscape.

The local powers that be have done much to put the Pikes Peak region on the map in recent years. The city has transformed from an affordable place to get a start or retire to an actual destination. But in order for the party to continue, we need to ensure we have both the high-quality jobs people desire and the people to fill them.

Things are happening, Colorado Springs. Let’s not lose focus. Maintain that 2020 vision.

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