Growing Our Own with a WIRED Future
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Growing Our Own with a WIRED Future Meeting the workforce needs of the growing, high-tech industries in Metro Denver. Presented to: Workforce Information Driving Regional Economies Conference, Phoenix AZ April 10, 2008. David Ford Planning and Policy Analyst

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David Ford Planning and Policy Analyst Denver Office of Economic Development

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David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

Growing Our Own with a WIRED FutureMeeting the workforce needs of the growing,high-tech industries in Metro Denver

Presented to: Workforce Information Driving Regional Economies Conference, Phoenix AZ

April 10, 2008

David Ford

Planning and Policy Analyst

Denver Office of Economic Development

Greg McBoat

Research Economist

Development Research Partners

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

The National Workforce Challenge

The U.S. economy will be faced by a number of serious challenges in the near future

Hewitt & Associates:

  • An Aging Workforce

  • A Shrinking Workforce

  • A More Diverse Workforce

  • Globalization of the Workforce

    Aspen Institute Domestic Strategies Group:

  • Worker Gap

  • Skills Gap

  • Wage Gap

Wired a national initiative

Changing Demographics

Colorado has the 7th fastest growing aging population in U.S.

Aging population usually means lower workforce participation

Increase in immigrants

Educational Pipeline Issues

Ranked 25th in high school graduation rates

11th lowest in state computer science degree production per 1,000 occupations

Imported skilled workforce – The Colorado Paradox



WIRED – A National Initiative

Public high school graduation rates nchems information center

Public High School Graduation RatesNCHEMS Information Center


While the North Central states continue to graduate students at high levels, Colorado’s ranking rose only slightly. Colorado’s graduation rate of 73.2% in 2004 remains in the middle of the national rankings.

Fig. 129

State computer science degree production per 1 000 occupations nchems information center

State Computer Science Degree Productionper 1,000 Occupations NCHEMS Information Center

11th Lowest

Colorado holds a significant competitive advantage in the information technology sector, yet the state ranks 40th in the production of workers in this key industry. Competitor Texas also struggles to produce these college graduates.

Fig. 151

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

The National WIRED Competition

  • In November of 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor released a Solicitation for Grant Applications for regions to align the workforce system, economic development and education to support the regional economy

  • WIRED Premise: Talent Drives Prosperity – Regional economies must deliver the high-skilled workforce that businesses need to grow

  • Much of the thinking behind the solicitation came from the writings of the Council on Competitiveness (

  • In early 2006, Metro Denver was awarded $15 million over a three-year period as one of these 13 “first generation” WIRED grants

  • Since that time, 26 additional regions have been awardedWIRED grants of $5 million each

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

U.S. Department of Labor

WIRED Awarded Grants

1st Generation

2nd Generation

3rd Generation

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

WIRED Metro DenverNine-County Region

Metro denver s wired grant

Metro Denver’s WIRED Grant

  • Our application proposed to address the Colorado Paradox

  • We built on research found in Towards a More Competitive Colorado, conducted by Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (Metro Denver EDC) around high-growth industry clusters (aerospace, energy, bioscience, information technology)

  • We included a partnership with the newly created Regional Workforce Investment Board. The workforce system is an integral part of this equation because:

    • Our competitiveness as a region depends on our present and future workforce

    • 84% of those who were in Colorado’s labor force in 2005 will be in labor force in 2010

    • 61% of those in Colorado’s labor force in 2005 will still be in labor force in 2020

  • Colorado Department of Labor & Employment is the grant recipient; Denver’s Office of Economic Development is the local fiscal agent;and Metro Denver EDC is in charge of programs

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

Metro Denver WIRED Goals

  • GOAL #1:Home-grown skilled workforce for WIREDindustries

  • GOAL #2:Best region in the country for STEM education

  • GOAL #3:Entrepreneurial climate for business creation and expansion

  • GOAL #4:Post-secondary certificate or an Associate Degree as minimum standard

  • GOAL #5:Regional system that integrates workforce, education, and economic development programs

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

U.S. Dept. of Labor ETA


Denver OED

Industry Panels

Supply Panels

Primary Project Convener and Program Oversight

Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (EDC)

Aerospace Industry Panel(Convener: Vicky Lea)

K-12 Education Panel(Convener: Colorado Children’s Campaign)

Bioscience Industry Panel(Convener: Jerry McCarthy)

Higher Education Panel(Convener: University of Colorado, Graduate School of Public Affairs)

WIRED Leadership Council

Guiding principles/criteria:

R = RegionalS = Sustainable

T = Transformational

I = Industry Targeted, Innovative

Energy Industry Panel(Convener: Mary Jeffreys)

Local Workforce Boards Panel(Convener: Workforce Board of Metro Denver [Metro Board])

IT/Software Industry Panel(Convener: Laura Hahn)

Small Business Development Centers Panel(Convener: Colorado Small Business Development Center Network)


JumpStart & Workforce

Innovation Grants

Metro denver wired structure 2008

WIRED Leadership Council - Comprised of 27 members representing all partners

Fiscal Partners


1 City & Co.


1 Metro Denver


Solutions Team:

Connecting to Industry

Solutions Team:

Growing Our Own

Solutions Team:

Optimizing Today’s Workforce

Solutions Team:

Metro Denver 2010

Metro Denver WIRED Structure 2008

8 Educators

2 University

2 Community College

2 K-12

2 Career/ Technical


8 Workforce

4 Workforce Directors

4 Business Reps

in WIRED Industries

8 Industry/Eco-Devo

4 WIRED Industry Reps

4 Eco-Devo or Eco-Devo Board Members in WIRED


David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

Source of Funds

WIRED is funded through H-1B funds

which can be used to:

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development


  • All WIRED activities measured under twoUS DOL metrics:

  • Capacity Building

  • Job-Related Education/Training

  • Three Metro Denver WIRED RFP releases:

  • JumpStart (2006) – Capacity Building

  • Workforce Innovation (2007) (2008) – Jobrelated education/training outcomes

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

Activities To Date

  • Convened 8 panels & Leadership Council

  • Awarded $3.7 million for JumpStart grants and$3.0 million for Workforce Innovations grants

  • Completed research and analysis phase: Asset Mapping, Job Matrices, a Workforce Study, a Gaps and Issues Analysis, a Career Pathways report, a Workforce Competencies Analysis

  • Partnered with Governor’s Office on NGA STEM grant

  • In process of releasing second round of funds for Workforce Innovations grants

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

3 JumpStart

5 Innovation

4 JumpStart

5 Innovation

2 JumpStart

2 Innovation

4 JumpStart

6 Innovation

6 JumpStart

6 Innovation

9 JumpStart

7 Innovation

4 JumpStart

5 Innovation

7 JumpStart

5 Innovation

3 JumpStart

4 Innovation

County Coverage of JumpStart & Innovation Grants

Jumpstart innovation grant industries

JumpStart & Innovation Grant Industries

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

JumpStart & Innovation Grant Awards


Community College of Denver - JumpStart into Aerospace – (JumpStart)

Leveraged an existing NASA-funded degree program in Aerospace Systems Engineering Technology that targeted underserved populations.

SpaceDev – (Innovation)

High school to high tech aerospace careers, “Straight to Space” program and Entrepreneurial Space Company promoting startups.

Aerospace & Bioscience

University of Denver - Educating Colorado’s Aerospace & Bioscience Workforce – (JumpStart)

Making of an Engineer summer camp using the theme of Engineering in Extreme Sports inaerospace engineering and bioengineering.


Community College of Aurora - Preparing High School Faculty and Staff in Emerging Technologies –(JumpStart)

Train high school teachers in bioscience instruction, use traveling science equipment kits and provide bioscience careers info to students.

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

JumpStart & InnovationGrant Awards


Adams County Workforce and Business Center (ACWBC) –(Innovation)

Train energy workers at Front Range Community College (FRCC), Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) for commercial driving.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) - Education Today, Energy Tomorrow –(JumpStart)

An online education program for high school students to create a pipeline into high-growth careers at local energy companies.

Front Range Community College (FRCC) – (Innovation)

An Energy Basic Training program that includes 80 hrs of training in Basic Math Skills, Understanding Basic Statistics and Measurements, Introduction to Process Technology, Working in Teams and Communication Skills in the Workplace.

The Goodwill Industries of Denver – (Innovation)

Paid apprenticeships and entry-level positions with Energy businesses as well as an “Energy Career Summer Camp”

iCAST (International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology)- (Innovation)

Four two-week courses in energy efficiency presented by The Colorado Energy Science Center (CESC) and E-Star Colorado.

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

Energy (continued)

Red Rocks Community College - Building and Sustaining a Pipeline of Process and Maintenance Technicians – (JumpStart)

With industry and education partners, process and maintenance technicians for the energy sector are trained to build and sustain a pipeline of job-ready workers.

Turnabout, Inc. – (Innovation)

Training on Solar Panel Installation, Wind Power Installation and Equipment, OSHA certification, Industrial First Aid/C.P.R. certification, Commercial Drivers License (A and B) for the Energy sector.

The Employment Services of Weld County – (Innovation)

Job training program for the Multi Industry Systems Technician (MIST), designed to remediate and develop skills for entry and mid-level employment in the Energy industry.

Aerospace, Bioscience & IT

University of Denver – (Innovation)

Placing unemployed and underemployed

clients into higher paying jobs in IT, Aerospace and Bioscience industries.

All Industries

Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) – (JumpStart)

Preparing high school students for careers in the aerospace, bioscience, energy and information technology industries.

JumpStart & Innovation Grant Awards

David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

JumpStart & InnovationGrant Awards

Information Technology

Arapahoe/Douglas Works! – (Innovation)

Expert Technician Academy (ETA) program for youth and adults to learn technical skills for all four industries.

Arts Street’s “Put Me On the Map” – (Innovation)

IT training for youth and young adults in GIS mapping, digital animation, digital video production, interactive communication media, visual informatics and web site content development.

Denver School of Science and Technology - 11th Grade Internship Program – (JumpStart)

Regis University – Business and IT Management Bilingual Degree – (JumpStart)

Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)

Colorado Minority Engineering Assoc. ~ Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (CMEA~MESA) – (JumpStart)

Pre-collegiate and college-prep STEM competencies and career pathway mentoring programs.

Thompson School District - Sustaining Transformation through STEM – (JumpStart)

Increased the number of graduates pursuing STEM careers through post-secondary certification programs, associate degrees, and four-year university/college degrees.

Determining wired industries

Determining WIRED Industries

  • Utilized cluster analysis

  • Methodology

    • Employment concentration comparison to state and nation

    • Employment levels

    • Five year growth rates

  • Data Sources

    • QCEW

    • Dun and Bradstreet Marketplace

  • Determined nine industry clusters

    • Selected four top industries from that group to target

  • Understanding the workforce

    Understanding the Workforce

    • Components of a workforce

      • Workforce demand

      • Workforce supply

      • Workforce skills

      • Educational pipeline

      • On-going training

      • Career ladders



    • Research Summary

      • Studies used

      • Strengths and limitations

    • Workforce Gaps

      • Current and future occupational needs

      • Skills needed

      • Workforce Issues

    • Informational Gaps

    Research summary

    Research Summary

    • Six research sources used to understand the components of the Metro Denver workforce

      • WIRED Workforce Study (DRP)

      • Industry Panel Recommendations

      • Job Matrices from the WIRED Panels

      • Workforce Competencies (NES)

      • Career Pathways Study (CAEL)

      • Asset Map Report

    Workforce study overview

    Workforce Study Overview

    • Methodology

    • Data Highlights

      • Skills

      • Hiring

      • Education/Training

    • Industry Highlights

    • Summary



    • Surveying

      • 203 businesses surveyed

      • Online and telephone survey

      • Bi-level quota sampling

        • Industry

        • Number of employees

    • Focus Groups

      • Four meetings

      • 25 industry leaders

    Data highlights skills

    Data Highlights: Skills

    • Experience and skills were ranked as the most important characteristics of an applicant

    • Basic, foundational skills are challenging to find

      • Math

      • Science

      • Writing

    • Business skills are increasingly important to WIRED businesses

      • Marketing and sales

      • Leadership and communications

      • Finance and budgeting

      • These skills are most prized when combined with a science and technology background

    Data highlights hiring sources

    Data Highlights: Hiring Sources

    • Personal networks are used most often when hiring new employees

      • Word-of-mouth

      • Professional organizations

    • Paid advertising is also heavily used

      • Online jobsites

      • Newspaper and magazine job postings

    • Areas that WIRED businesses would use more often if they knew more about them included:

      • Personal networks

      • Educational institutions


    • Workforce centers are only used by half of WIRED businesses

      • There is a perception that workforce centers are only useful when hiring entry-level positions

      • Businesses were unaware of many of the services offered by the centers

    Data highlights hiring geography

    Data Highlights: Hiring Geography

    • Half of all WIRED businesses hire 100% of their workers from within the WIRED Region

    • When businesses cannot meet their workforce requirements locally they often hire from:

      • California

      • Texas

      • Wyoming

    • Entry-level workers are usually hired locally

      • As positions require more skill and experience, businesses must look further

    Data highlights other hiring issues

    Data Highlights: Other Hiring Issues

    • Retiring Workforce

      • Some industries are starting to feel the impact of the retiring baby boomer generation now

      • Most expect to feel the major impact after 2017

      • Different strategies are currently being implemented to retain employees, hire qualified young workers, and work with retiring employees who wish to continue working

    • Industry Image

      • Perception that youth have little accurate knowledge of the WIRED industries

      • Perception that only workers with high-level degrees can find solid careers in these industries

      • Some WIRED industries are perceived as unstable due to previous economic trends or current businesses which grow and are sold

      • Industry/education partnerships could help to educate teachers, counselors, parents, and students about the reality of these industries

    Data highlights education programs

    Data Highlights: Education Programs

    • Over half of WIRED businesses use at least one intern each year

    • Fewer than 5% of businesses offer registered apprenticeships

    • Half of businesses provide educational reimbursement programs

    • Industries are interested in externship programs with educators

    Data highlights education partnerships

    Data Highlights: Education Partnerships

    • The biggest challenge with educational partnerships is the financial and human cost

      • 79% of WIRED businesses employ fewer than ten employees

      • Many of these small companies do not have the human or financial capital for these programs

    • Despite this challenge, WIRED businesses see the need for increased communication between industry and education

    Data highlights training programs

    Data Highlights: Training Programs

    • Ongoing employee training programs

      • Most common training topics are:

        • Industry specific training

        • Technology and computer application training

      • 75% of training is provided within the WIRED Region

        • Conducted with fewer than ten employees

        • Training lasts 2-7 days

        • Average cost of $500 per employee

    Industry highlights aerospace

    Industry Highlights: Aerospace

    • In-demand skills include: high tech, and business skills

    • Engineering and craft/trade positions are most needed within the industry

    • Security clearances can be a costly challenge when hiring workforce

    • The industry participates in a number of programs geared towards directing youth to STEM education

    Industry highlights bioscience

    Industry Highlights: Bioscience

    • In addition to basic skills, project management and high ethical and security standards are valued

    • Most in demand occupations include:

      • High-level scientists

      • Engineers

      • Technicians/associates

      • Business and operational staff

    • Networking and advertising are the most useful sources for hiring new employees

    • Businesses find value in educational partnerships but struggle to find the resources for them

    Industry highlights energy

    Industry Highlights: Energy

    • In demand Energy occupations include:

      • Scientists (engineers and physicists)

      • Technical workers (technicians and maintenance)

      • Business operations (managers and sales)

    • Governmental regulations limit how some Energy companies hire employees

    • Apprenticeship programs provide successful training of new employees and a clear career ladder to follow

    • There is a demand for more occupational, experiential education to better prepare the incoming workforce

    Industry highlights it software

    Industry Highlights: IT/Software

    • Most important skills include:

      • Programming and hardware

      • Sales and marketing

      • Communications and leadership

    • IT workers important to all WIRED Industries

      • 31% of employees in the WIRED Region are classified as IT workers

    • Highest demand occupations:

      • Technology workers

      • Sales and support occupations

      • Management and operations

    • Businesses would use more education partnerships if processes were easier and clearer



    • One of the most important factors in business location decisions is access to a quality workforce

    • The WIRED Workforce study reveals a disconnect between industry and education

      • Businesses struggling to find local workers with the skill sets they require

      • Businesses often look outside the region to fill high-level, high-skilled positions

    • Retiring baby boomers exacerbate this issue

    • Small businesses have limited resources to utilize current workforce programs

    Summary continued

    Summary (continued)

    • WIRED industries could utilize local hiring sources such as workforce centers and college career centers more effectively if they were clearer and easier

    • Communication must be strengthened between WIRED industries and education

    • Increasing and streamlining programs such as intern- and externships will help link youth with WIRED industries

    • This work will help Metro Denver generate a future workforce that is equipped to succeed in diverse WIRED positions.

    David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

    Next Steps

    • Poll students, teachers, job-seekers, counselors

    • Organize WIRED Solutions Teams/Workgroups

    • Release and award additional Workforce Innovations funds

    • Fund transformational/sustainability initiatives

    • Continue to develop partnerships and encourage collaboration through transformational dialogues

    • Bring other WIRED regions’ “promising practices” to Colorado

    • Develop sustainability plan to create a structure that lasts beyond WIRED grant period – finish revising Implementation Plan

    • Implement WIRED communications strategy

    • Continue to work with Governor’s Office on STEM-related issues

    • Work on technology transfer to help grow our clusters

    • Share all curricula developed with other educationalinstitutions throughout region

    David ford planning and policy analyst denver office of economic development

    David L. Ford

    Planning & Policy Analyst / WIRED Grant Manager

    Denver Office of Economic Development

    201 W. Colfax Avenue, Dept. 208

    Denver, CO  80202

    Phone: (720) 913-1669e-mail: [email protected]

    Greg McBoatResearch EconomistDevelopment Research Partners10184 West Belleview Avenue, Suite 100Littleton, Colorado 80127Phone: (303) 991-0075e-mail: [email protected]

    General Information:[email protected]

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