By Scot Kersgaard, JVA Consulting

The Denver Office of Economic Development was among 23 agencies around the country to be awarded a Ready to Work Partnership Grant from the United States Department of Labor last week. Denver received just under $6.2 million, which will be allocated over the next four years and will be used to launch the Technology Employment in Colorado Project (TEC-P).

Funds will be used to provide job training and other services to long-term unemployed and under-employed people in Colorado, primarily in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties.

The grant, which was written for the City of Denver by JVA Consulting, will train approximately 600 people for high-tech jobs in high-demand fields.

“We’re proud to advance this regional effort to further develop our pipeline of talent, to connect the long-term unemployed with promising career paths in high-demand industries,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock in a press release. “Thanks to the strong collaboration among government, industry and training partners, this regional project sets us up for increased success in recruiting for and boosting our labor force.”

The Denver Office of Economic Development will serve as fiscal agent of the four-year project. Partner agencies include the Colorado Urban Workforce Alliance; Workforce Investment Boards; the Colorado Community College System and Western Colorado Community College; and various industry groups.

“We couldn’t have gotten this grant without JVA,” said Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, senior analyst at the Denver Office of Economic Development. “JVA kept us on task. JVA grantwriters have extensive experience in writing successful federal grants and they are excellent writers. They really understand the type of detail that is necessary to respond to a federal grant solicitation and what needs to be included in the application to be awarded a grant like this.”

She said the grant will benefit the under-employed as well as the unemployed.               “There are a lot of folks, who might have a liberal arts college degree and might also    have an aptitude for IT, yet they are not currently working in a professional job. Even though they might not have really thought about IT, they may have an                    aptitude, and they would qualify for IT training under this program.”

According to the city press release, approximately 45 percent of the long-term                unemployed within the grant area hold a bachelor’s degree. The program will                primarily target this population with intensive coaching and job training leading to    certificates and credentials needed for employment in the targeted occupations.

Garcia-Eckstein said employers are excited about the program because it will help address the mismatch between job opportunities and qualified applicants. Currently, she said, a lot of Colorado employers hire foreign workers with H-1B visas to do work that they can’t find qualified Colorado residents for.

She said Colorado is a hub for jobs in IT, advanced manufacturing and various STEM fields but that the pool of qualified job applicants cannot keep up with the demand.

“This grant will give people a chance to get training for good jobs in high-growth industries and will also help employers fill these positions more easily. Everyone benefits,” she said.

Garcia-Eckstein said people who want to sign up for training should register at their local Workforce Center in order to ensure they are notified when the new training programs start.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Labor last week, in addition to job training, funds can be used for financial counseling, childcare, health care and other services that enable people to focus on finding a job. At the conclusion of training, placement support will also be provided.