Dear 45: Help States Get Their Citizens the Right Skills They Need

Sep 21, 2016 - 12:15pm

Governor, Colorado

To: The 45th President of the United States

From: Gov. John Hickenlooper

Dear 45:

The country has worked to recover from the depths of the great recession, yet we are faced with new challenges in a dynamic economy that have great implications on how we prepare the country’s workforce. Talent development must be a signature component of any state’s economic development agenda and our federal government must remain committed to supporting states in this endeavor.

The challenge in Colorado is clear. While postsecondary education or training is a prerequisite for 88% of the state’s top jobs, only 23% of students who begin high school in Colorado and go immediately into college following high school, graduate with a degree within 150% of the time allotted. This pathway works for less than 25% of Coloradans and still may not guarantee the skill set needed for the jobs available. How do we approach this skill mismatch?

We have utilized partnerships to embolden locally developed solutions that are collaborative and innovative.  Skillful, a partnership with the Markle Foundation and LinkedIn, is addressing the skills mismatch. The project is engaging business to identify the specific competencies needed to qualify for and excel at in-demand occupations, and connects individuals with community colleges, training centers, and other programs that provide competency based education.

It also works seamlessly with our effort in experiential learning, known as CareerWise Colorado, an apprenticeship program that connects high school age students to on-the-job training, providing a career pathway to high paying careers (and college credit). Building on the strengths of education and training, Skillful allows  employers to find  employees (and vice versa)  with  the appropriate skill sets needed by providing the platform for job seekers to better market their skills for Colorado’s top jobs. Through this effort, Colorado combines the practical need for skills in today’s economy with the technology to connect and empower those who are looking for employment and employees.

Another initiative, Launch My Career Colorado, is an online web tool that provides students and adult learners with information about the return on investment of postsecondary programs in Colorado. Developed by a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, American Institutes for Research, Gallup Inc., and USA Funds, the interactive web tool helps students make more informed decisions about the training and skills that will provide the greatest value to Coloradans.


Programs like Skillful, CareerWise Colorado, and Launch My Career Colorado will be the future of how we meet the business community's ever changing need for new skills; providing opportunities beyond the traditional paths to careers.

It is our imperative to find a scalable, industry-driven framework for business engagement in education and workforce development. Your support of this work is critical and your leadership invaluable.

We look forward to supporting you on this endeavor.


John W. Hickenlooper
State of Colorado

More Articles On: 

About the Author

About the Author

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
Governor, Colorado

John Hickenlooper has been the governor of Colorado since 2011.