Tormohlen: Strengthening the valley’s workforce
January 30, 2016
In this column, we've discussed many of the issues impacting the Aspen to Parachute region and how philanthropy, nonprofit organizations and others are responding. Now we'd like to give voice to people who are passionate about and are working to enhance the vibrancy of our community.
Mark Gould Jr. is president and chief operating officer of Gould Construction in Glenwood Springs. As the leader of a 37-year-old locally owned business, he wants to ensure that Roaring Fork Valley kids are well-educated and able to remain in the valley as parents and workforce members. Mark is chairman of the Business Roundtable for Youth Success, a committee of the Aspen Community Foundation's Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative. The roundtable, which includes other businesses such as Alpine Bank, Berthod Motors, SGM and Aspen Earthmoving, is providing job-shadowing and internship opportunities to local high school students and working to create more day care and preschool options for local families, which will free adults to join the workforce and help prepare youngsters for the K-12 system.
Aspen Community Foundation: Why are you passionate about getting youth involved in business?
Mark Gould Jr.: I see a need in this community to be able to keep our youth here. We don't have methods or systems in place for kids to go to high school here and then stay here. I want to make sure local businesses can have a pool of local kids and employees to pull from, but we need to start creating a stream of employees for our valley.
ACF: How does the Business Roundtable help to create those future employees?
MG: Right now, the community is focused on shipping all of our kids off to college, but often the kids don't really know what they're supposed to be doing there. College is a means to an end. The kids are being sold on the means, but they can't generate their own goals because they don't know what the end looks like.
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Take me as an example. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to be in business, but (my goal) wasn't exact. I liked the numbers and the sense of business, so I said, 'Let me learn more about it in college.' … I ended up coming back and working for my dad. I was able to take that business education and use it. My business has benefited, and I have benefited. If you have a general goal in mind, you can accomplish everything. I'm 31 years old, and I'm president of a company that's a mainstay in our valley.
ACF: How do job-shadowing and internship opportunities help kids form their career goals?
MG: The No. 1 goal is to be more prepared for the workforce. You learn what it takes to be in the workplace — professionalism, multitasking, time management, understanding the consequences of your decisions, working as part of a team. The other piece of it is, do I like the office environment? Do I like this particular industry? Do I like working outside? … Knowing what you don't want to do is almost as important as knowing what you do want to do.
ACF: Why should other businesses get involved in this kind of youth-oriented work?
MG: I think there's a moral obligation to leave the next generation better than yours. Secondly, we've got to look long term at our legacy and improve the local economy, improve our valley and improve our local youth's level of preparedness. I'm looking at an industry (construction) that has a major worker-shortage problem. If I'm going to help improve an industry, I want to generate a discussion about giving kids options.
ACF: What outcomes will we see in the valley as a result of the Business Roundtable?
MG: If the Business Roundtable is successful, we're going to see increased local employment. We're going to see higher productivity from employees, higher productivity from families with dual incomes because we'll provide better child care and better early-childhood education. We're going to be raising our own, and we're going to be best in class.
Tamara Tormohlen is the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.