The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual review of the legislative session, coined “State of the State,” featured a special guest this year: CU Denver’s Chancellor Michelle Marks. More than 800 legislators, business leaders, and community members attended the May 12 event at the Convention Center to learn about Colorado policy and hear keynote speaker Gov. Jared Polis’ reflection of the latest legislative session, which concluded the week prior and addressed issues facing the state, including labor shortages and the need for more flexible education and training, crime, mental health, transportation, and more.
Marks was invited to moderate a panel on workforce development, featuring Jake Hirsch-Allen, North America Workforce Development and Higher Ed System Lead for LinkedIn; Ian Kristic, Solutions Manager and Regional Head at The Myers-Briggs Company; Naeem Ishaq, EVP, Chief Financial Officer for Checkr, Inc.; and Meaghan Sullivan, Executive Director of CareerWise. Marks and the panelists’ professional roles covered a range of areas critical to the state’s workforce, including higher education, the search and hiring process, psychology in the workplace, background checks, and career opportunities out of high school. Marks kicked off the panel by acknowledging the state’s need for more workforce development opportunities—which CU Denver is committed to helping address in its 2030 Strategic Plan.
“With big talent shortages across Colorado and the nation, we need innovative solutions to position us for future economic growth,” Marks said. “Our conversation today is an invitation for organizations across higher education and industry to work together to think creatively about talent development and growth. We have a historic, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine our workforce strategies and make Colorado the most robust labor market in the nation.”
Panelists emphasized the need for more skills-based and experiential-based hiring requirements and a greater focus on individual skills versus “one-size-fits-all.” They advocated for a combination of workforce preparation, including a higher education degree—which Kristic referred to as the “benchmark of everything”—or boot camp certificate, paired with mentoring, coaching, and formal training.
LinkedIn, for example, has honed in on individual skills and experiences when helping match candidates to companies. “We are catching up to move away from the industrial revolution,” Hirsch-Allen said. “We are figuring out a model that is more human.” Kristic noted that companies must cast a wider net for hiring and offer opportunities for career and leadership development in the workplace. Ishaq added, “It’s just good business and high ROI to invest in the workforce.”
Among the bills related to workforce development and higher education that passed this legislative session are HB22-1002 Fifth Year High School Concurrent Enrollment, which broadens educational and workforce opportunities for students; SB22-099 Sealing Criminal Records, which helps remove a barrier to employment, education, and housing for residents with qualifying criminal records; and SB22-140 Expansion of Experiential Learning Opportunities, which creates the infrastructure necessary to upskill and reskill Coloradans as business needs evolve, according to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
J. J. Ament, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, closed the 2022 State of the State by acknowledging the power of democracy. “We should cherish and defend our freedom, our democratic capitol, and the responsible exchange of ideas,” he said. “That means that everyone has a voice, and that is a privilege and a right that isn’t enjoyed equally in the world.”