Karen Markel

At the 25th UCCS Economic Forum earlier this month, Dr. Tatiana Bailey, the forum’s director, highlighted the “headwinds” facing our region, including a worsening labor shortage that is exacerbated by longstanding skills gaps, return on investment concerns for educational attainment and ongoing inequities in income. 

A longstanding reminder of UCCS’ commitment to local business and partnership with employers, the Economic Forum strives to develop innovative programming that aligns with industry needs; Dr. Bailey’s predictions were a timely reminder that this mission is increasingly relevant.  

So how can UCCS continue to leverage affiliations to local business and build bridges that improve labor outcomes in Colorado Springs? 

One recent example of innovative partnerships between UCCS and the local business community is the new cybersecurity management programming at UCCS. Organizations need more workers in technology and network security, but there is a significant skills gap in available labor. To combat this issue, the College of Business identified a unique solution to satisfy both the educational and skills-based learning requirements of those open positions. This program, backed by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, is known as the Colorado Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program. 

C-CAP directly targets underrepresented, underemployed and transitional populations for upskilling and reskilling training in cybersecurity. This program relies on industry support to ensure our curriculum is relevant to a company’s needs, with the eventual goal of apprenticeship placement in open cybersecurity positions. 

The R.O.A.R. Program is another example of community partnership to address labor outcomes. R.O.A.R. is a career curriculum that helps students identify career pathways, test drive their chosen careers through experiential learning opportunities and receive mentorship and guidance from professionals in the community. The program works closely with employers in the region to align students’ interests to industry needs and provide a seamless transition from college to career. The R.O.A.R. program helps students develop their career plan early, while giving them the support and resources needed to remain in school and work towards their career goals.

These programs are just two examples of how we can work together to address the future of work in our community. The College of Business welcomes input from local business to forge new partnerships and improve economic outcomes for all. 

This culture of innovation did not happen by accident. At UCCS, we seek continuous improvement in our programs and encourage innovative thinking in our classrooms. We teach our students to think critically and identify solutions to challenging business scenarios. We listen to our business community and constantly explore new avenues for dialogue and collaboration. 

UCCS offers an Entrepreneurship minor, which teaches students to recognize business opportunities and know when to seize them. The work that Tom Duening and Matthew Metzger, professors in the College of Business, have done in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship space has paved a pathway between students and entrepreneurship opportunities in the Colorado Springs community. 

The Entrepreneurship minor provides students with access to work in the “Garage” at UCCS, a state-of-the-art co-working facility, to build their business ideas, refine their business plan and develop their product with the assistance of UCCS mentors and business leaders from the community. 

This entrepreneurial spirit is present across the local community. Here in Colorado Springs, we are well positioned to inspire change and identify new solutions to turn our headwinds into tailwinds. I look forward to working with you in the upcoming year to help solve our region’s challenges, identify innovation solutions, and cultivate new partnerships to improve our workforce, and the community, for the better.

As we approach our fall commencement ceremony next month, we are excited to be sending off an eager and well-prepared cohort of graduating seniors to join our local community, businesses, and organizations around Colorado Springs. Congratulations, Class of 2021!

Dr. Karen Markel is dean of the UCCS College of Business.