In our efforts as Colorado's state partner in the Working Poor Families Project, the Bell Policy Center has long advocated for increased education and skills-development opportunities for working adults. To expand these opportunities and develop state-level policy recommendations that advance the Working Poor Families Project's goals, the Bell is actively involved as a core advisor to the Skills2Compete-Colorado Campaign. Along with the Bell, the campaign's advisory committee includes a broad range of education, workforce, business and non-profit organizations.
Among the products developed by the Colorado campaign to-date is Preparing for the Future: Closing Colorado's Middle-Skills Gap, a brief outlining key policy goals and recommendations for Colorado to follow in improving efforts to train adults for the "middle-skill" jobs that will continue to drive the state's economic recovery. Middle-skill jobs require some post-secondary education and training beyond high school, but less than a four-year degree.
The Bell took a lead role in helping to craft the campaign's policy recommendations and write the brief, which was released by the campaign in conjunction with a more descriptive, data-driven report on the "middle-skill gap" in our state. In both the policy document and the report, the Bell's findings on the limited support for, and reach of, adult-education programs in Colorado that were identified in our Opportunity Lost: 2010 Update served as the foundation for the campaign's recommendations in this area. Opportunity Lost: 2010 Update was made possible through the support of the Working Poor Families Project.
Preparing for the Future: Closing Colorado's Middle-Skills Gap proposes four broad policy goals for Colorado in helping more working poor adults gain the education and skills needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce and earn family-sustaining wages:
- Create a visionary goal for post-secondary credential attainment in Colorado, and measure progress toward this goal.
- Support career pathways that provide education and training for all workers by aligning programs and policies in Colorado's adult basic education, developmental education, job training and higher education systems.
- Expand the reach of adult basic education, and change its focus toward moving students more quickly and successfully to post-secondary credential attainment.
- Implement industry-focused strategies for workforce development that combine education, training, workforce development and economic development resources.
For each policy goal, the brief identifies several specific recommendations and strategies.