How Colorado Can Make “The Great Reset” a Reality for a Disrupted Talent Pipeline

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Many have called the economic recovery efforts “The Great Reset.” The term is fitting as it implies that we have the opportunity to truly build back better.

As we strive to rebuild, among the challenges facing Colorado’s workforce are the high number of people who have left their jobs. “The Great Resignation,” has impacted employers and employees alike. Workers cite inadequate compensation, subpar work-life balance, or a lack of recognition as the top three reasons for their departures, according to a study by SHRM. The exodus has also exacerbated skills gaps among staff. Employers across the state continue to face significant challenges in hiring, training, and retaining a workforce. COVID, and the parallel economic and educational disruption have brought not only interference but an opportunity to innovate and modernize educational and talent-building systems.

Through our efforts to facilitate conversations with employers, policy experts, legislators, and representatives from chambers of commerce, we have seen three key themes.


1.) Partnerships between the private and public sectors are critical to addressing skill gaps.

The saying “we’re greater than the sum of our parts” rings true. To strengthen our workforce, job training, and business environment we need to work together closely. The Colorado Workforce Development Council’s strong working relationship with Colorado Business Roundtable is one example, and the Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force is another. Created by the Colorado legislature (HB21-1330), the task force included representatives from higher education, student organizations, private colleges, K-12 schools, members of the business community, and other stakeholders; and submitted a report of its findings and recommendations to the Commission on Higher Education and the General Assembly’s education committees in December of last year. This led to several bills that were approved this legislative session and will create future change.

2). Employers’ agility in the face of rapidly changing circumstances will determine their success.

The pandemic upended the way we work, and employers were forced to quickly adapt in order to meet the needs of employees and customers  Businesses adapted in other ways, such as expanded benefits, increased compensation structure, and specific wrap-around programs designed for employees wanting to reenter the workforce. Some employers have added employee tuition, creating partnerships with specific Colorado higher education institutions to fulfill the benefit. In the fierce competition for retaining and attracting talent, employers have quickly acted to support their employees’ ability to care for themselves and others, and in essence, improve their workplace performance.

To help employers navigate the new talent landscape, the CWDC’s 2021 Colorado Talent Pipeline Report stresses the importance of employers’ talent development strategies, especially as we return to a new normal.

3). Supporting workers from all backgrounds will help address talent gaps and expand opportunities.

Skills-based hiring practices enable businesses to value the skills a person has or can learn over proxies for skills such as formal degrees. By focusing on candidates’ competencies, businesses encourage individuals with a variety of backgrounds to apply. A diverse workforce strengthens businesses’ ability to generate new ideas and adapt to changes.

One under-tapped source of talent is Colorado’s immigrants, who make up one-eighth of the state’s residents. Many immigrants have valuable skills and experiences but lack certificates and licenses. Thankfully, an increasing number of people are recognizing the value in helping New Americans obtain the credentials they need to use the skills they have; last year, the legislature passed SB21-077 which removes lawful presence as a requirement for individual professional licenses.

By expanding public/private collaboration and partnerships, providing greater agility for our employees, and supporting a diverse talent pool, we are confident that Colorado’s workforce will emerge stronger than ever.


Debbie Brown is the President of the Colorado Business Roundtable

Lee Wheeler-Berliner is the
Managing Director at Colorado Workforce Development Council

Learn more about the three takeaways and more at the July 14 “Future of Work: Talent Pipelines Reimagined” half-day event.



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