Though the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the job market, Colorado counties are still reaching for the stars with a job-training program built to pair job seekers with employers in the aerospace industry and other high-tech employers.
Arapahoe/Douglas Works! is a joint workforce development organization between Arapahoe and Douglas counties; it will provide training for jobs like software developer, geospatial technicians, data analyst, quality technician and soldering technician.
“This is prime time with the pandemic to look to help individuals who were impacted,” said Sasha Easton, workforce administrator with Arapahoe/Douglas Works! “We’re looking for people who are unemployed or underemployed, on public assistance. The cool thing about it is that there are so many counties involved that it’s a real regional approach.”
Arapahoe/Douglas Works! is participating with eight other central counties in the Denver area in the H1B One Workforce Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor with a $7.38 million grant. Its share figures to be $910,000 to train 132 participants, aiming for 60 percent to receive a credential, certificate or degree. On top of that, the organization will subsidize training for 20 incumbent workers and enhance their skills to move into mid- and upper-level positions at their employers, primarily in technology, transportation or aerospace fields.
“We like to focus on incumbent workers because they’re in a lower-paying job, get them new skills, keep them with that company but also fill the pipeline behind them as well,” said Kelly Folks, the organization’s workforce director.
The partnership will demonstrate to employers like Boeing and TTM Technologies, both of which have signed letters of support, that the counties are committed to providing a qualified and able workforce.
“There are positions where we might have training pipeline struggles or have a great need that we’re not meeting,” Business Services Manager Stephanie Mufic said. “That’s why those jobs are the focus of the grant. Those are also mid- to high-level positions and our goal is to take people who are impacted by the pandemic right now that may not have had those skills. They can get those skills and get into those jobs.”
The program also applies to workers seeking an H-1B visa.
“We focus on aerospace, where they don’t have H-1B jobs however they have those careers that are very similar, but they can’t use H-1B visa workers because they have federal contracts,” Mufic said. “They still have a need.”
“We will take the support from the businesses,” she noted, “talk about training opportunities and areas we can use existing training opportunities … and if it’s not there, work to create it.”