Recently, Governor Jared Polis, in partnership with the Colorado Community College System, announced the launch of Career Advance Colorado, a workforce development initiative providing free training for in-demand jobs through the state’s 19 community and technical colleges. The program aims to prepare more than 20,000 Coloradans for high-skill careers while responding to the state’s most critical workforce shortages.
The program is funded through House Bill 23-1246, which dedicates $38.6 million to fully cover tuition, fees, course materials, and other costs for training programs in high priority areas: construction, early childhood education, education, forestry, firefighting, law enforcement, and nursing. Governor Polis signed the legislation, which was sponsored by Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie, State Sens. Janet Buckner and Perry Will, and House Rep. Rose Pugliese.
“We’re excited to save Coloradans money and train people for good-paying jobs by offering free community college education for in-demand positions at the state’s 19 community and technical colleges. We know this will work thanks to the success of Care Forward Colorado, and we’re happy to continue leading the way forward on innovative solutions to our workforce challenges,” said Governor Jared Polis.
The program will begin this upcoming fall semester and cover training costs while funding is available. To enroll, students must apply to their college of choice and submit applications for federal and/or state financial aid. As open access institutions, community and technical colleges do not require transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, or fees as part of the application process.
“Having worked in the education sector for decades, I’ve seen the impact of our state’s teacher shortage up close,” said Speaker McCluskie. “Many sectors are facing the same challenges, so it’s imperative we take immediate action to incentivize more Coloradans into these career pathways. Through Career Advance Colorado, we have delivered a bipartisan solution that will uplift thousands of Coloradans and keep our state competitive for years to come.”
The program builds on the success of the Care Forward Colorado program, which covers costs for entry-level healthcare programs at community and technical colleges. To date, more than 3,000 Coloradans have completed programs in emergency medical services, phlebotomy, medical assisting, and other allied health fields facing significant shortages.
“We are grateful to Governor Jared Polis and the General Assembly for continuing to invest in community and technical colleges and expanding this zero-cost model in additional areas of study,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System. “Our 13 colleges, in partnership with our sister technical and local district colleges, are on the front lines training essential workers across Colorado. Together, we stand ready to train the next generation of nurses, firefighters, police officers, and more who will move Colorado forward.”
Career Advance Colorado launches as the state faces dire shortages in several sectors. Colorado sees 4,000 job openings for registered nurses and 3,700 for elementary and secondary educators every year, according to data from the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. Construction jobs are also projected to increase by 20% over the next decade.
Career Advance Colorado program offerings and financial aid processes will vary at each community and technical college. Coloradans should contact their college of choice to discuss their options.