Colorado report identifies skill gaps

By Bryan Wilson, February 20, 2014

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has released its annual report comparing the supply of newly credentialed workers to the demand expected in the labor market. The findings show that unless the supply increases, the number of new certificates and associate degrees in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production will fall far short of employer demand. The annual report is required by the Skills for Jobs Act, passed in 2012, and championed by the Colorado Skills2Compete Campaign.   

Looking at all levels of postsecondary education the report finds that, “In 2012, public institutions in Colorado awarded 49,739 certificates and degrees, an impressive 8.7 percent increase from the year prior. Since 2007, postsecondary completions have seen an average annual growth rate of 5.6 percent.” Yet, despite this success more needs to be done.  

Colorado ranks third among the states in the percentage of jobs that are expected in 2020 to require some form of postsecondary education or training (74 percent of jobs). Colorado needs to produce about 1,000 more certificates and degrees each year in order to meet demand.

While the aggregate gap for postsecondary education and training is significant, the gap for certain middle-skill credentials is huge. Unless production is increased, the supply of new certificates and associate’s degrees in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production will fall way below the levels demanded by Colorado employers. In 2012, there were 3,667 completers of mid-level credentials in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production, but in 2020 there are expected to be about 6,500 job openings, due to economic growth or retirements, for workers with these skills. This is a skill gap of 44 percent.  

Beyond pointing out where Colorado needs to boost skills training, the report demonstrates how states can produce useful information for policy makers who want to know where to direct additional resources in order to close the skill gaps widely reported by employers. Click here to read the report.