About a year ago, I went to a community town hall that talked about education funding in Colorado. During the discussion, a gentleman talked about a shortage of skilled technical workers needed to fill a growing number of job openings his company had.
As a seasoned veteran and leader in the software industry, I also know how hard it is to find skilled software developers. However, he thought that if he didn’t have enough workers to meet his needs, the problem must be due to a flaw in our education system.
I asked him, "What have you or your company done to invest in our schools?"
He didn’t have an answer.
If you ask business owners how they build and grow a business, they will quickly tell you that it takes a tremendous amount of investment and effort to build a market for their products or services.
At the same time, the business community has also assumed that the school district’s responsibility is to fill their pipeline with workers. The reality is that producing college and career-ready students requires an investment in the education we provide for students.
The mill levy override, 5A, and the bond, 5B, are two ways to invest to improve education throughout Jeffco.
These are exciting times. Yet they are also be filled with critical challenges to ensure that our children are prepared for a rapidly-changing career landscape.
According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of our children will hold jobs that do not exist today.
The US Department of Labor projects that the fastest growing jobs over the next decade largely reflect our changing economy, demographics, and evolving technological and environmental landscapes. In large part, jobs that drove our economy during our parents’ and grandparents’ generations are declining at a rapid rate due to automation.
Several sectors are growing rapidly:
- Healthcare: As our population ages, more healthcare providers will be needed to meet the demand. With improved technology and better medical outcomes, we will likely live longer than previous generations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several healthcare occupations are expected to expand faster than the rest of the economy, including home health providers, nurses and physician assistants.
- Alternative Energy: Colorado already has a growing alternative and renewable energy industry. According to Indeed.com, there are 335 job openings along the Front Range today. By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates jobs like solar photovoltaic installers, and wind turbine service technicians will double.
- Technology: Data is growing at exponential rates. It also means that there will be growing demand for statisticians and mathematicians to analyze it. We will need more technicians to support the expanding number and type of devices that will be connected. We will need more security analysts to protect our devices and networks against malicious attacks, and we will need software developers to create applications for our digital economy.
These are significant and disruptive changes that have a ripple effect on how we educate and prepare students for the future. Today, students who are exposed to a wider range of experiences and learning opportunities are better prepared for the future.
By providing hands-on learning environments to find and grow their talents, we increase their chances of being successful in the new economy.
We can better prepare our students by investing in updated equipment and facilities to build new skills for future careers. We can can be more competitive with neighboring districts to attract and retain the best educators who will provide the learning opportunities and inspiration for our students.
Over the last decade, Jeffco has lost $642 million due to the Budget Stabilization Factor (BSF, formerly known as the negative factor). Those lost opportunities, both in terms of attracting and retaining the very best educators and investing in the resources and facilities, are already having profound effects on our community.
Year over year, Jeffco loses talented, experienced teachers to surrounding districts who pay more. Jeffco can't attract the best new teachers because our salaries are too low. We have a tremendous amount of demand for vocational, technical and STEM classes, but don't have the capacity, resources or facilities to make these kinds of programs accessible to every student across the district.
With 5A and 5B, we have an opportunity to change that. On Nov. 6, Jefferson County voters will have the opportunity to build the economy of the future.
An investment of around $12 per month for an average Jeffco homeowner will create new opportunities for 86,000 students to prepare for these jobs of the future.
Regardless of whether you have students in school today, you can play a key role in investing in tomorrow's healthcare providers, technicians and technologists that make our communities the most sustainable, livable and economically vibrant places in Colorado. Vote YES on 5A and 5B.