The issue: 

How does a community prepare a workforce in the 21st century?

What we think: 

Colorado Springs is poised to create tomorrow’s workforce — with a mix of high tech jobs combined with a focus on the trades.

Tell us what you think: 

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Everywhere you look in Colorado Springs, some business is hiring. (We’re among them; send us your résumés!) And we’re seeing some pretty sweet deals out there: more money, signing bonuses, flexible hours. 

It might seem to some small businesses that it’s harder to find workers than ever before — much less the workers with the right set of skills needed for available positions that also allow room to grow into leadership roles. 

In the short term, these hiring challenges can seem insurmountable. In the long term, though, Colorado Springs is sitting pretty. 

There’s a good reason for that: a creative, responsive business community that believes in collaboration and thinking ahead. 

Consider this: A local business was the first in Colorado to get state approval to teach classes mandated by a state law that requires plumbers to complete eight hours of continuing education classes every 12 months. The bill requiring the continuing education credits went into effect in May, and Diego Lujan, owner of Aphalete Plumbing & Heat, was ready with the first classes in June. But Lujan has bigger dreams. He’s creating a four-year trade school for high school graduates. It’s a new day for trade opportunities because there’s a significant lack of people trained to do the work. 

The pandemic birthed the idea, and the pandemic proved its necessity, Lujan says. His Southeast plumbing business had a record year in 2020 — and there aren’t many businesses that can make that claim.

The city is also creating a high-tech workforce. We even have a consortium of universities, The Quad, working with local businesses to solve problems. That hands-on training will help local students when they move on into their careers. The United States Air Force Academy, Colorado College, UCCS and Pikes Peak Community College all work together to provide a group of students with leadership skills that can’t be acquired in the classroom.

The four institutions of higher education in and of themselves are huge assets to our community’s workforce development — throw in programs like Colorado Springs Leadership Institute (see p. 18) and Leadership Pikes Peak and the city will grow more connected leaders. 

People like Dr. Erik Huffman, director of information technology at BombBomb, are working with students in elementary, middle and high schools to train for cyber careers. Thanks to early starts, universities and certification programs can attract those graduates, many of whom will already know cybersecurity basics. In Colorado Springs School District 11, students are learning to become drone pilots and augmented reality engineers, both promising skills for future careers. 

Taj Stokes at Thrive is helping budding entrepreneurs start their own companies right in their own backyard — and teaching them to grow their own workforces when the time comes. Programs supported by the city’s Housing & Building Association are creating tomorrow’s construction workers in Falcon. The Pikes Peak Workforce Center connects people with jobs daily and trains those interested in new careers or brushing up on skills. 

Overall, the Springs is planning for the future. It’s what every thriving city wants  — and it’s happening here. Cities everywhere need to look to the Springs as a blueprint on how to develop future workforces of their own.