Starting in August the Community College System will make use of their Career Advance Colorado program, a workforce development initiative that looks to provide free training for in demand jobs through the state's 19 community and technical colleges.
The program's goal is to prepare more than 20,000 Coloradans for high-skill careers, while hoping to alleviate the state's most critical workforce shortages.
This program is funded through House Bill 23-1246 where now $38.6 million will go to covering tuition fees, course materials, and other costs for training programs in priority areas like construction, early childhood education, education, firefighting, forestry, law enforcement, and nursing.
The bill is sponsored by Colorado House Speaker, Julie McCluskie, Sen. Janet Buckner, Sen. Perry Will, and Rep. Rose Pugliese. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill in May.
For students like Katarina Campbell programs like these have been life-changing.
"I really didn't know where to start with my journey in healthcare, so I know I wanted to do a certificate to get my foot in the door and get that experience," said Campbell.
Campbell found her passion for nursing through a state program, CARE Forward Colorado. CARE Forward COLORADO - Colorado Community College System (cccs.edu)
Originally, I was just going to complete CNA certificate program, but because of CARE forward I was able to do the full patient care technician program," said Campbell.
The Career Advance Colorado program was built on the success of the CARE Forward Colorado program which trained thousands of Coloradans for entry level healthcare positions, like Campbell who is now working as a CNA at UCHealth.
More than 3,000 Coloradans have completed programs in emergency medical services, phlebotomy, medical assisting, and other health fields facing significant shortages.
"It's been very empowering just knowing that I don't have the student debt hanging over my head even though I haven't even started my nursing school yet, and also it's been very beneficial being able to work and save up some money before going into the program," said Campbell.
The program would allow several community and technical colleges to offer free training to students in seven fields including - nursing, firefighting, education, and law enforcement. It begins this upcoming fall semester and will cover training costs while funding is available.
Joe Garcia, Chancellor for Colorado Community College System says this is a step to finding the solution to the workforce shortages the state has been facing.
"We have a significant shortage of skilled workers for in demand professions so nurses, and police officers and construction workers, there's a great need for them, but not enough people trained with the skills to move into those jobs," said Garcia.
In efforts to solve this issue, they're offering this program to up to 20,000 students, though they will still have to apply for financial aid.
"If a student gets a full Pell Grant and doesn't need this money to cover the tuition, that's great…it is only if their Pell Grant does not cover their cost that this would then make up the difference, that way we can serve more students," said Garcia.
Career Advance Colorado comes at a time when the state is facing dire shortages in several sectors. Colorado sees 4,000 job openings for registered nurses and 3,700 for elementary and secondary educators every year, according to data from the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. Construction jobs are also projected to increase by 20% over the next decade.
Career Advance Colorado program offerings and financial aid processes will vary at each community and technical college. Potential students interested should contact their college of choice to discuss their options.
The program starts this fall semester and will cover training costs while funding is available.
To enroll, students need to apply to their college of choice and submit applications for federal and/or state financial aid.
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