Faster college education targeted toward better jobs, Colorado report says

College students need more ways to complete courses quickly and learn the skills employers are looking for – and companies need to do a better job of talking to students about career paths at an early age and partnering with them. colleges and universities so that education leads to better paying jobs.

Those are the findings of a recently released report by Colorado Succeeds, an advocacy group comprised of education and business groups. Industry and higher education must work together if students are to have access to opportunities and if businesses are to have the skilled workers they need to grow, the report says.

“This report is really about meeting students where they are and not asking them to figure out how to do all the things the system should figure out for them,” said Katie Zaback, vice president of policy for Colorado Succeeds.

The report offers five guiding principles to start this conversation, including putting the student first, discussing how to create shorter pathways for students, and integrating workplace skills into the classroom.

Zaback said that by making classes less time-consuming, students can start earning money sooner. Some students have to work and cannot wait years to complete their studies to find a job, she said.

This has become even more of an issue in recent years as more high school graduates and adults have prioritized entry-level work over schooling. The report notes that community college enrollment has plummeted as starting salaries have risen, students have avoided debt, and young people have taken on family responsibilities.

This means fewer students are on the path to long-term economic mobility, the report says.

Colorado community college leaders said they want to offer more evening classes and figure out how to condense learning into weeks instead of semesters.

In the meantime, and without colleges producing enough skilled workers, companies are suffering from a labor shortage. More employers say they would like to expand their business.

Colorado Succeeds board member Tom Brinegar said his Denver tech company, PEAK Resources Inc., still can’t find skilled workers and needs to train many new hires in basic skills. These workers then need further training to keep up with changing technology.

It’s expensive, Brinegar said. He thinks schools have more and better resources than companies to help students learn. Schools teach students to be lifelong learners and to believe they can learn new skills, he said.

Brinegar said students should also know their options early and know what jobs are available. He thinks companies should help colleges and universities understand what they expect from workers.

He hopes the report will bring business leaders to the table to help better prepare students for the job market.

“If we don’t, there are really dire consequences and we’re already seeing that,” he said. “We are already seeing children who are simply being left behind.”

Jason Gonzales is a journalist covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at

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