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Traci Marques

For many in the community, 2020 was filled with unique opportunities. Depending on the lens you used, it could have been business and/or job growth; it could have been added responsibility you’ve always craved; it could have been an increase of sales for a product you created or produced. Another lens may show loss; it may show a dream that wasn’t fulfilled; it may have been static, more of the same; or something you didn’t want.

No matter what lens we look through, we know 2021 is coming.

In 2020, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center saw an increase in customers, telephone volume and workshop attendance — and an overall increase in services. We were helping more people and more businesses. Our staff was having heartfelt conversations with some businesses about layoff strategies, while helping other businesses move or expand in our region. We talked to job seekers who had 23 cents to their name, job seekers with multiple Ph.D.s, scared workers who needed help, and people who needed someone to talk to or help them figure out the unemployment system. PPWFC staff helped them — just as we’ve have done since we became one of the Labor Department’s American Job Centers  in 1998, and just as some type of government workforce center has done since the Great Depression. 

For the past several years, PPWFC has had an economic impact of over $140 million annually, while helping thousands of businesses and job seekers. We change lives. No matter what 2021 holds, we will be there to help our region — it’s just what we do.

During 2020, PPWFC had the opportunity to use El Paso County CARES Act funding to upskill, retrain and retain our workforce talent. To start, we looked at data. What are the skills associated with the job titles of the majority of our displaced workers? What are the skills needed to fill the job openings we have now? What about future jobs and future companies? By utilizing a data-driven solution, we created #UpSkill2020 — an online management system that lets businesses upskill and retrain their workforce at no cost.

Most businesses know they have to do more with less, and #UpSkill2020 allows them to customize training for retaining their workforce. Maybe someone went from being a receptionist to also doing Outlook management for the owner. Our platform can train them, too. 

The #UpSkill2020 system is also available to all job seekers in the Pikes Peak region. The system offers job and career exploration, an opportunity to see what your interests are vs. your aptitude, all with a job coach who can journey with you.

For 2021, we know we have new companies hiring. We have been engaged with new companies that need our help with their hiring, including companies retraining their workforce and companies that don’t yet know what they will need. We will continue to offer our business relations services, our virtual, customized hiring events, our labor market information and so much more. 

Looking to the future, skills gaps will continue to be an issue in our community. In 2021, we hope you will utilize the platforms we have created to upskill and retrain your workforce. Let’s use this as an opportunity to change our lens from looking at what might have been to what could be. 

If I had a crystal ball for 2021, I would say that opportunity and growth are ahead. Likely it will look different than in prior years, and will require innovation and creativity. 

It just depends on which lens you’re looking through.

Traci Marques

Executive Director/CEO, Pikes Peak Workforce Center