Making it a statewide priority to provide a well-trained workforce is a major factor in growing existing industries and attracting new ones to Colorado. Currently, the state is not producing the quantity of workers necessary to support existing manufacturing or meet the future needs of this sector. In the spring of 2013 the Colorado General Assembly addressed this need with the passage of HB13-1165 which authorized the creation of a Manufacturing Career Pathway. While development of this pathway will be coordinated by the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE) in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), it will be industry led by manufacturers across the state.
The goal of designing a Manufacturing Career Pathway is to provide efficient and economical on ramps for individuals interested in pursuing careers in the manufacturing sector. The Pathway will include; (1) Career exploration information for students in middle school interested in pursuing a career in advanced manufacturing; (2) Development of secondary programs that offer a clearly-defined pathway to the acquisition of industry- designated stackable certifications, Associate, Bachelor or graduate degrees designed with industry input; (3) Multiple entry and exit points offering opportunities for workers re-entering the workforce or existing individuals looking for career advancement; (4) Identification of the academic, workplace and technical competencies identified by manufacturing employers necessary for career progression in high-demand manufacturing occupations; and, (5) Technical skill assessments, academic and career counseling and other support services.
Working in partnership with manufacturing employers, this Pathway identifies academic, technical and workplace skills necessary for career success. Skill gaps in existing programs will be identified and additional curriculum will be developed as necessary to provide targeted and relevant training at each level in the system.
Benefits of a Manufacturing Career Pathway
The creation of the Manufacturing Career Pathway offers many benefits for students, existing workers and the manufacturing employers in need of a qualified, well-trained workforce. Identifying and integrating academic, technical and workforce competencies into a comprehensive Pathway, provides for a smooth transition from secondary to post-secondary education and into the workplace without duplication of courses, loss of credit or delays in completing necessary training needed for employment.
For high school students, the benefits are clear. A student can jump-start their career by beginning technical education in high school or at a career technology center. A student can take advantage of concurrent enrollment programs where they can earn college credit for work completed while in high school reducing the cost and time requirement of an education.
For adults who may be looking for a career change or looking to advance, this Pathway will provide opportunities for “in-demand” skill training in an educational system that values experience and credit for prior learning. For the advanced manufacturing sector, this initiative provides employers with a chance to help shape the education system so that it supplies a workforce with the skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive advanced manufacturing workplace workplace.
The Colorado Manufacturing Career Pathway Initiative is an innovative collaboration of manufacturing, education and labor leaders that provides comprehensive resources necessary for Colorado to be competitive in a global advanced manufacturing economy. The initiative provides a roadmap that prepares the manufacturing workforce for rewarding, high-skill, high-wage and sustainable careers in the advanced manufacturing sector. With agreement about fundamental skill competencies, this Pathway provides options for both students and adults to become certified and the resources to accelerate the fostering of a stronger advanced manufacturing workforce for Colorado.
Manufacturers are encouraged to participate in the process and provide input and validation of the process. For information on how to participate, contact Jennifer Jasinowski, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ben Nesbitt is Program Director, Skilled Trades & Technical Sciences, Career and Technical Education, for the Colorado Community College System. Reach him at 303.595.1614 or email@example.com.