Colorado’s Emerging Postsecondary & Workforce Ecosystem

The nature of work is changing, and so are the training and supports required to participate in the workforce over a lifetime. At the same time, Colorado is getting older and more diverse, and dealing with persistent socioeconomic and racial/ethnic gaps. As work and education continue to evolve, research suggests low-income people, people of color, and older Coloradans could get left behind if systems and policies fail to address the barriers these groups face.

The goal of the Bell’s Future of Work and Learning Project is to survey the state’s emerging postsecondary education and workforce systems, with an eye toward identifying and eliminating barriers to success for Coloradans seeking economic mobility. Specifically, the project seeks to understand equity gaps in existing systems and to use our findings to develop policy recommendations that help ameliorate these gaps.

This first phase of the project consists of a landscape assessment in which we categorize the major stakeholders and outline legislation that has helped create the emerging ecosystem. We also consider the extent to which the postsecondary education and workforce training landscape is equipped to address economic and racial/ethnic inequality, demographic shifts, technological change, and decreases in public investment.

In consultation with stakeholders and participants, future phases will dive deeper into the equity ramifications of Colorado’s postsecondary and workforce systems. We plan to:

  • Convene an advisory group of students, employers, and experts to provide a qualitative feedback on the lived experiences of navigating the emerging ecosystem
  • Examine the innovative efforts of stakeholders who are serving people on the economic margins
  • Develop policy recommendations that address the changes necessary to develop greater equity in the future of work and learning.

Supplementary work will address the effects of automation and technology, alternative work arrangements, and the need for training and benefits that follow workers throughout their lives.

Colorado is a leader in the nationwide effort to align postsecondary education and workforce training with the needs of a changing population and economy. With this project, we aim to provide a much-needed equity lens to this conversation, and to help policymakers and other state leaders develop systems that work for all Coloradans.

This project was made possible by generous funding from the Kresge Foundation. The Bell Policy Center is grateful for Kresge’s thought leadership on these issues, and for its partnership in improving equity in work and learning in Colorado and across the country.

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