The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes how crucial workforce development is throughout the whole year and the community at large. Workforce development leads to prosperous employees, businesses, and local communities. By training and upskilling our workforce, businesses can enjoy happier staff, lower turnover, and exciting growth opportunities. This also helps to support growth for the economy as a whole. It is important for our community to get in front of workforce challenges and one way to do just that is to empower our youth.
The Grand Junction Chamber, along with the Mesa County Workforce Center, School District 51, Colorado Mesa University, Western Colorado Community College and many other community partners collaborate daily to strengthen and provide opportunities to the youngest members of our workforce. The Grand Junction Chamber, along with community partners actively participates and provide opportunities for businesses to engage with workforce development through CareerWise Colorado youth apprenticeships, career exploration through job shadows and internships, the Workforce Innovation Program, creation and collaboration of the CareerLink Committee, and the platform, Find Your Future, an online career exploration platform for youth and young adults. With many partners involved, workforce development is a high priority for the Chamber and for Mesa County overall.
Kirstin Maska, Workforce Development Coordinator at the Chamber, said “Students and youth 16-24 are our largest ‘up and coming’ workforce and our Chamber, along with our partners, are committed to engaging the community and business leaders in providing work-based learning opportunities, both career and technical, that will lead to meaningful careers for our local students.”
Tabitha Britt, Youth Employment Specialist for the Mesa County Workforce Center, reports that workforce development is essential for the future of our community. “I work with community partners to provide relevant information and resources to the youth of Mesa County. While I specialize in youth, I work with all ages in my role and have found this information to be universally beneficial. It is never too late or too early to invest in your future.”
Workforce development is on everyone’s mind but we are working towards even more opportunities. The school district is working hard on revamping its work based learning curriculum starting as early as middle school to help get students excited about their futures. Bo Tobin, Work Based Learning Coordinator with School District 51 says that businesses have access to a unique community here in the Grand Valley. “We have a talent pipeline right in our own backyard with the students in our school district. All of our partners want the same things and we are all willing to work together to make it happen!” Britt echoes this sentiment as well, “Mesa County is successful in the realm of workforce development due to a shared value of collaboration. Every meeting or committee I attend is full of professionals and community partners willing to put in the work to help our residents grow and prosper.”
The Grand Valley has no shortage of students both secondary and post-secondary. Colorado Mesa University (CMU) and Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) are also involved in workforce development efforts throughout the Grand Valley. CMU houses Career Services which provides resources and guidance for students and alumni in their journey toward reaching their career goals. It is important to provide these resources to attending and graduating students as we want to assure our talent pipeline leads into our community instead of into other communities with different employment opportunities.
Businesses and employers don’t always know how they can support workforce development and the Grand Junction Chamber is here
to walk you through it. Opportunities range from job shadows, internships, apprenticeships, a program for students to start their own businesses all the way to using students to fill permanent employment. Unsure if your business has the resources to get involved? We can help connect you! There are opportunities for businesses to lean on community partners for help – including grant funding. For example, the School District has been partnering with the Mesa County Workforce Center to provide grant funding to allow high school students to be paid during their internships which subsequently allowed for them to provide more than 30 paid internships. Additionally, the Chamber and the School District have also been collaborating with CareerWise Colorado and the Mesa County Workforce Center to provide grant dollars to CareerWise employers to pay for post-secondary education, a requirement for our local high school apprentices.
When reiterating all the collaboration efforts in our community, Britt concluded, “If you approach any of our community leaders and ask about their path to the position they hold today, you will find that it is not entirely linear. Our progression in education and the workforce leads us down a variety of paths to get where we are meant to be. This is what makes investing in our workforce valuable for residents of all ages and walks of life – there is no expiration date on growth. Anyone can change careers or develop new skills.”
Strong economies hinge upon youth and young adults possessing the skills they need to secure meaningful, well-paid work. Our local programs and partnerships help young people succeed in jobs, entrepreneurship, and ongoing career learning. We remain committed to building programs to better connect young people with mentors, training providers, and employers.