Today, Gov. Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced the first 46 recipients of the Opportunity Now Colorado grant program to support the creation and expansion of innovative workforce and talent development initiatives across the state. These grants are intended to help connect more Coloradans with in-demand, high-skill, high-wage occupations.
“Across the state, employers are looking to hire the top talent that Colorado is known for. The Opportunity Now Colorado grant recipients announced today will help Coloradans develop the skills and experience our growing industry partners need and unlock access to good paying jobs,” said Governor Polis.
The grant recipients announced today are working to create and/or grow long-term partnerships between educational institutions, industry leaders, and employers to develop the current and future workforce across Colorado. Emphasis was placed on programs that create intentional pathways between one phase of education or employment to another and foster opportunities for regional “learners and earners” to be more economically mobile.
“Innovative partnerships between educational institutions and employers have proven that modern apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs create solid career pathways. These Opportunity Now Colorado grant recipients will foster more of these opportunities at the regional level and contribute to a strong economy that works for everyone,” said OEDIT Executive Director Eve Lieberman.
The grant recipient announcement was made at Tepeyac Community Health Center, a nonprofit community health center in Denver and a grantee.
“We recognize that our mission to provide affordable and accessible healthcare for all only succeeds when our staff reflects our community and shares our mission. This Opportunity Now grant will enable us to launch the healthcare careers of underserved and under-resourced individuals in our community while also growing our culture and retaining our dedicated healthcare workers,” said Jim Garcia, CEO and Founder, Tepeyac Community Health Center.
Three grant tracks support projects and initiatives at various stages of the development process, including seed, planning, and scale. Among the recipients, St. Vrain Valley Schools has been selected to serve students over 411 square miles and four counties through its Pathways to Prosperity program. This comprehensive, career-connected learning system prioritizes high-demand industries across more than two dozen industry sectors including early childhood/K-12 education, technology, and advanced manufacturing.
“Every student should have the opportunity to experience the world of work while they complete their credential. This allows students to maximize their earning potential and get a head start in the job market. This is crucial to changing how we do higher education,” said CDHE Executive Director Dr. Angie Paccione.
Western States College of Construction has been awarded to make apprenticeship programs more accessible to women, minorities, and other underserved populations while improving apprenticeship completion rates on both the front and western slope. The La Plata County Economic Development Alliance and Fort Lewis College will receive funding to expand, Project RUN, which provides adult learners with accessible and high-quality education through professional certificates that meet industry needs. Project RUN will develop and retain a skilled and diverse workforce, driving economic mobility for traditionally rural, lower income, and diverse communities of color in Southwest Colorado. They are just three of 46 projects funded (PDF), which are also listed below.
“The Opportunity Now Colorado grant process truly demonstrated that Coloradans are committed to working together to provide innovative new professional development opportunities and connect Coloradans to high quality jobs. The opportunity to support their work will accelerate the impact of these programs and make a difference in communities across the state,” said Barbara Myrick, Selection Committee Member and President, B&M Construction.
Collectively, the Opportunity Now Colorado recipients serve all 14 regions of Colorado, from the Central Plains and Southeast Colorado to Region 10 and the Northwest. The top three industries served include education, healthcare, and infrastructure, all identified as key priorities by HB22-1350, which established the program and was sponsored by House Speaker Julie McCluskie, Rep. Janice Rich, and Sens. Jeff Bridges and Paul Lundeen.
“I'm beyond proud of our efforts to help build strong talent pipelines toward meaningful careers in industries across our state, specifically in our rural communities," said House Speaker Julie McCluskie. "Ninety-eight percent of the Opportunity Now Colorado grant recipients announced today serve at least one target industry. This type of regional innovation is a win-win for rural and urban workforce needs alike—we're meeting demand in well-paying industries and creating a pathway forward for Coloradans ready to take on a career that allows them to live and work in the communities they call home."
“At the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, we’re laser-focused on preparing Colorado's current and future workforce for the high-skill and in-demand jobs our economy needs to thrive,” said Joe Barela, Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). “The Opportunity Now grants support those efforts in conjunction with what we’re doing to increase registered apprenticeships across the state.”
“We need to create the foundation for progress and innovation. Opportunity Now gives grantees tools that will boost the Colorado workforce, including in education, healthcare, and infrastructure,” said State Senator Janice Rich.
Two additional rounds of funding will be available through Opportunity Now Colorado, with the next application period opening later this summer. Previous applicants that did not receive funding through the first round of grants will have the opportunity to leverage their Phase 1 application submissions when completing future applications. More information will be made available at opportunitynow.co in coming weeks and months.
Opportunity Now Colorado Grant Recipients
Funding intended to scale evidence-based practices in education and workforce development that meet employer needs and increase economic mobility. (Amounts are rounded)
AdvanceEDU - $1,154,000
BuildStrong Academy of Colorado - $749,000
Relay Graduate School of Education - $2,408,000
St. Vrain Valley Schools - $7,000,000
Western States College of Construction - $3,363,000
Spur innovation in education to employment and workforce development by creating new partnerships and solutions. (Amounts are rounded)
Arizona State University in partnership with 8 school districts, primarily rural - $525,806
CareerWise Colorado - $944,000
Colorado River BOCES - $1,497,000
Colorado State University Pueblo - $1,397,000
Family Health West Foundation - $1,560,000
La Plata County Economic Development Alliance - $1,246,000
Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) - $1,497,000
Second Chance Center, Inc. - $977,000
Tepeyac Community Health Center - $1,097,000
Support planning, community and employer research, and partnership development in the research or initial development phase of a program.
Grants of around $50,000
Aurora Public Schools
Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley
Build Pagosa Inc.
Campo School District RE-6
Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)
Clayton Early Learning
Colorado Institute of Family Medicine
Colorado Mountain College Foundation (Fiscal agent on behalf of Colorado Mountain College)
Colorado Safety-Net Collaborative
Education Strategy Group
Energy Resource Colorado
La Veta School District RE-2
Mancos School District RE-6
Morgan County School District
Mountain Family Health Centers
National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement, Inc.
New America College
Pikes Peak BOCES
Pikes Peak State College
Public Education & Business Coalition
Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative
Teach by Tech, Inc
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce
Treeline Pass (TLP)
Western Colorado University