by Traci Marques
Like many places across the country, the Pikes Peak region is experiencing a labor shortage. Employers have job openings but either don’t receive many applications or there are skill mismatches between applicants and available positions. Colorado’s unemployment rate recently dropped to 4.1 percent – the lowest since February 2020 – and there are about 13,000 jobs to fill in both El Paso and Teller counties. That means the work of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center (PPWFC) to connect vital businesses with work-ready job seekers is more important now than ever.
At PPWFC one of our core values is collaboration. We understand the value of partnering with other entities to enhance the quality and depth of our services for job seekers and employers. In today’s world of workforce challenges, it truly takes a village to ensure we’re aligning the skills in our workforce with the needs of local businesses.
One of our most valued relationships is with the Adult Education team of Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD). PPWFC is a one-stop shop that helps job seekers or individuals looking to make a career transition to access a variety of resources and opportunities like job training or workshops. Like other community partners, PPLD is a mandatory partner under our federal grant, Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA ensures a collaborative approach to workforce programs, knowing that there is no wrong door to access workforce services. PPLD’s Adult Education team often enhances our work by providing résumé building and other programs to job seekers who aren’t quite ready to come directly to PPWFC for services. It’s instrumental in ensuring job seekers who walk through our doors are set up for success.
An industry hit particularly hard during the pandemic is the service and restaurant industry. We’re still seeing such businesses experience challenges finding qualified staff, and that’s one reason why we have proudly partnered with PPLD for food industry training courses. This five-week program is led by a professionally trained chef who helps participants secure a ServSafe Food Handlers certificate and find work in the culinary field as a prep or line cook. The most recent class graduated 12 students with the competencies to step right into back-of-the-house restaurant jobs. PPLD’s next round of classes begin Mon., Oct. 10, with applications accepted from Aug. 22 - Sept. 25.
We’re also proud of another partnership with PPLD and School District 11 Schools on our Talent Accelerator Grant to improve digital literacy, which can often be a tremendous hurdle for individuals trying to navigate online job searches and interview processes. This was a pilot program for all three entities. Through this grant, we worked with PPLD to provide three evening courses to help individuals improve basic skills with computers and email, as well as internet and career searches; D11 provided computer lab space, plus referrals from PPLD. Participants not only gained new digital tools but also registered for Connecting Colorado, a state database to help match employers with ready-to-work job seekers.
PPWFC is committed to building strong community partnerships to solve our complex workforce challenges. We can do this by leveraging the subject-matter expertise and proficiencies of organizations across the region. Our relationship with PPLD is just one example of how strategic partnerships maximize our ability to ensure that local workforce aligns with the needs of our business community.
If you or someone you know is in the market for a job or looking to make a career change, start by contacting the Pikes Peak Workforce Center or visiting your local library. We also welcome businesses to reach out if they’re looking to obtain, retain or reskill their staff. PPWFC can connect you to available resources and opportunities and help everyone take the next step in their career.
Traci Marques is the Executive Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, the American Job Center serving El Paso and Teller counties. Learn more about the Center’s services for job seekers and employers at ppwfc.org.