Governor’s Workforce Council strives to unite Colo. job-seekers, employers

Just because unemployment is at an all-time low doesn’t mean that everyone is working or that employers have put out “no vacancy” signs.

People entering the job market often have difficulty finding information about jobs, training programs, and other employment opportunities. Likewise, employers struggle to find workers with the appropriate skills to keep their businesses competitive.

The Colorado Workforce Coordinating Council was created by Gov. Romer in 1994 “to bring efficiency into the system and to make it easier for employers and job seekers to find out about jobs and opportunities,” says Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, program executive director.

Garcia-Eckstein’s staff put together a list of about 80 state and federal employment and training programs, and last November Romer made 21 appointments to the council to develop a work force development strategy.

The aim of the council, Garcia-Eckstein says, is “to help individuals get what they need without this maze of programs.”

A statewide network of One-Stop Career Centers is one piece of the program’s vision. The Boulder center, known as Workforce Boulder County, was one of the first sites implemented last year, along with Arapahoe-Douglas, Larimer, Weld, Denver and Tri-County (Gilpin, Clear Creek and Jefferson). All 18 regional centers are expected to be running by the end of the year.

Workforce Boulder County Executive Director Toya Speckman says that in the first quarter of implementing TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the state block-grant program that replaced AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, in July 1997), the rolls went down to 667 from 750.

“They found a whole range of jobs, some full-time and some part-time, with an average wage of $7.57 an hour,” she says.

The state group is fairly evenly divided between public and private-sector representatives. But getting qualified people into the work force has to be employer driven, says council member Dick Wesolowski, recently retired director of product flows for the Kodak plant in Fort Collins.

Wesolowski sees One-Stop Centers as more than just employment service centers, but as resources that can “really enhance and view the employers as a key customers,” he says. He thinks the centers should supplement all the roles of human resources departments.

“I really believe that the real challenge in today’s tight labor market is finding quality human resources, and I think the One-Stop can help if it can partner with the employer in a pro-active way.”

Wesolowski hopes that once the 18 centers are running the Workforce Council can focus on work force development, “delivering skills and competencies needed for now and the future,” he says. “The nature of work is really changing. We need to stay out in front of that power curve or else we’ll find we’re giving people skills that aren’t marketable.”