By Emilie Rusch for The Denver Post | Middle-skill jobs — positions in information technology, advanced manufacturing and other fields that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree — are expected to make up nearly half of all Colorado job openings between 2012 and 2022.
Many local employers, however, often struggle to find workers with the right skills to fill the positions.
“What I’m hearing is, ‘Where are all the good entry-level people?’ ” said Chuck Sugent, manager of the advanced manufacturing laboratory program at Emily Griffith Technical College and a 43-year manufacturing industry veteran.
“(Employers are) all saying the same thing: ‘I need the entry-level people I can bring in and make my experts of the future, but I don’t know how to find them anymore,’” Sugent said.
The New York-based Markle Foundation and business networking site LinkedIn want to change that with Skillful, a new jobs initiative that aims to help middle-skill workers acquire new skills and advance their careers.
Gov. John Hickenlooper joined local business and education officials to announce the initiative Thursday at Emily Griffith’s new Osage Street campus in Denver. Colorado and the city of Phoenix were chosen to debut the program.
“Skillful is not just a website —it’s a workforce translator,” Hickenlooper said. “Job seekers are going to be able to see exactly if they have the skills employers are looking for and if not, where they can go to earn those skills so they will be the desired applicant.”
The Skillful platform features a network of online tools and in-person support, all tailored to middle-skill job seekers and employers.
Workers can go to skillful.com and explore career options, find job listings, get interview tips and connect with a career coach.
Job hunters can access a detailed database of about 1,000 training programs offered by Colorado community colleges, technical schools and boot camps throughout the state.
Created by LinkedIn, Training Finder includes not only the available programs but also how much they cost, how long they take, how much you can expect to earn, what businesses are affiliated with the program and current applicable job listings.
On the flip side, middle-skill employers can use Skillful to access advanced talent search functions, as well as resources for how to write better job postings.
A number of local employers have pledged to change the way they seek and evaluate potential hires, committing to a skills-based approach rather than one that requires a degree by default. Among those making the Skillful pledge are Aqua-Hot Heating Systems, Influence Technologies, Intertech Plastics, Mountainside Medical, Pinnacol Assurance and RK Mechanical.
“It’s a huge transformation,” said Markle Foundation CEO Zoe Baird. “It enables the employers to expand the pool of eligible people and will help them get people who are more targeted to the skills they really need. The surrogates they’ve been using for skills — like a bachelor’s degree — don’t necessarily give them the labor pool they want.”
Techtonic Group, a Boulder software development company, was another company that made the pledge.
CEO Heather Terenzio said ideal candidates for their in-house apprenticeship have a passion for technology and computers, ambition and a desire to change their lives.
“I personally have an Ivy League degree and was an engineer. That’s not where I learned how to write software. I learned it on the job,” she said. “We’ve always had a philosophy that you don’t necessarily need a college degree to be a great software developer.”
Statewide, 62 percent of Coloradans do not have a college degree, Baird said.
“Colorado is a state that has growing industry but a tremendous population without a college diploma, just like every other state in the country,” Baird said. “We really felt this was a place that would be open to the resources we might bring in.”
Top middle-skill job markets in Colorado include information technology and advanced manufacturing, she said.
“Forty-four percent of Colorado and Phoenix employers say it’s hard to find people with the right technical skills, and 54 percent of U.S. workers who have a high school diploma and some or no college education say they don’t know what jobs are available, and if they have the skills needed for those jobs,” said LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue. “We’re excited to help overcome this disconnect.”
Emilie Rusch covers commercial real estate and retail for The Post. Reach her at 303-954-2457.