Ritter announces Colorado job-training agenda | AspenTimes.com

Ritter announces Colorado job-training agenda

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GOLDEN, Colo. – Gov. Bill Ritter introduced a jobs-training package Thursday that he said will help Colorado workers get back to work, including a teaching and testing program to certify that applicants at Colorado Workforce Centers have passed a basic skills test.

Ritter said a pilot program over the past year that trained 700 workers has proven that companies want qualified workers, and the program is now going statewide. Skills are measured in applied math, reading comprehension and the ability to get information.

Glenn Morris, president of Envergent, a Denver-based company specializing in energy efficiency and indoor air quality, tried the program and found five qualified candidates right away. He hired one person and plans to hire three more.

Morris said bad hires cost him time and money. “Finding the right skills is the most difficult job I have on a daily basis,” he said.

Other job-training proposals for the legislative session that begins in January include job retraining accounts that are employer-matched, portable employee-owned accounts to finance employee education and training similar to college savings plans, a plan providing incentives for health care workers to work in rural areas, and a nurse training loan forgiveness program.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, a Democrat from Longmont, said Democrats will work with Ritter go get the job-training programs passed when the legislature convenes in January.

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“It all begins with a good job,” Shaffer said.

University of Colorado economists expect the state to add jobs in the second half of next year, but they still predict the state will lose 3,200 jobs overall in 2010.

Nevertheless, CU economist Richard Wobbekind said it’s a sign the Colorado economy will settle down next year after losing about 100,000 jobs in 2009.

Republicans noted that Ritter promised “Jobs by June” at the end of 2008. Last December, Ritter pitched a legislative package focused on incentives for expanding or relocating businesses and on increasing the availability of loans for small companies. Republicans said instead of bolstering the economy as promised, Ritter ended up signing into law $1 billion of devastating taxes and fees.

“First it was ‘Jobs by June.’ Now it is jobs by January,” Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, of Grand Junction, said in a written statement. “We don’t need any more slogans or ribbon cutting ceremonies. We need positive leadership on the economy, and Democrats’ pro-tax, pro-union, anti-drilling agenda has been anything but that.”