Trading Skills for Schooling Helps Colorado Fill its Workforce | Content reserved for subscribers

As COVID progresses in the rearview mirror, Colorado’s economy still has 117,635 jobs to fill this month, following a pandemic when many workers chose to leave work to care for their families. or avoid any outside contact.

That was in Governor Jared Polis’ mind when he signed an executive order on Thursday requiring state agencies to place more emphasis on skills and experience than four-year college degrees, to reduce barriers to recruiting new employees.

More than 15,000 of those positions are in computer science and other math-related fields, according to, the statewide job search website. Polis and his team chose a newly opened building on Google’s Boulder campus at 30th and Pearl Street to highlight this need. The governor noted that Google Boulder was an early adopter of skills-based hiring practices.

Google Chief Executive Bhavna Chhabra announced the company’s plans to invest some $9.5 billion in offices and data centers in the United States, including $30 million for facilities in Colorado, including the 125,000 square foot renovation in its Reve office space purchased earlier this year near the Boulder campus. Reve is set to reopen in 2024 as an all-electric, carbon-free workplace.

To highlight the value of skills over formal education, Polis brought in working mother Elena Barrera, who had to leave the University of Colorado School of Engineering in the spring of 2020 to care for her daughter. , after schools sent students home during the pandemic outbreak. Barrera nonetheless turned a two-year associate’s degree from Front Range Community College into a leadership role as a general manager at Lafayette’s Ashcraft Technologies, building on previous experience to complete a four-year education.

“You have to be able to express what you’re doing,” Barrera said after signing.

She said she got her first job when she was 8 and took advantage of community college to gain work experience as a customer service coordinator. Barrera advises high school students and other entrants to the workforce to gain real-world experiences at work as well as education.

“You have to double down,” she added. “You want education to support you, but your work experiences are just as valuable.”

The new executive order directs managers overseeing the state’s 31,000 employees to consider applicants’ skills and experiences as substitutes for degrees and certifications. Under the order, the Department of Personnel and State Administration would create a model to map specific skills that would be equivalent to college degrees and to monitor job postings to ensure compliance.

“Nearly one in five positions across the state are vacant, resulting in an unsustainable workload for too many state employees,” said Hilary Glasgow, executive director of Colorado WINS, representing state employees. ‘state, together with the signature.

In November, the governor signed a partnership agreement with Colorado WINS raising the minimum wage for social workers in Colorado to $15 an hour.