Hot Sheet

Skill-based, not degree-based, jobs will power Colorado’s future, leaders say

Author: Gabrielle Bryant - January 21, 2018 - Updated: January 23, 2018

jobs educationRep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, chair of the House Education Committee, speaks to Colorado Politics after the governor’s State of the State address. (Photo by Gabrielle Bryant/Colorado Politics)

From social media to the way we shop and everything in between, technology undoubtedly permeates our daily lives. Some children get an iPhone before they’re old enough to get a job and toddlers understand how to locate and operate apps before they can recite the alphabet.

Growing up a millennial, I was raised on Mavis Beacon typing tutorials and learning how to search the internet from Ask Jeeves. I’m now the parent of a 12 and 8-year-old who have grown up in a world where selfies and SnapChat are a way of life and the ability to make eye contact is likely to become an awkward thing of the past.

Two things that remain constant throughout both my children’s upbringing and mine are the
1 cent King Soopers horse rides and our antiquated education system. Schools continue to place an emphasis on standardized testing, behavior and attending college. Meanwhile, the jobs of tomorrow require critical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurialism.

“Not everybody is going to go to college or wants to go to college, and we need to ensure that we’re preparing them as well,” says Colorado House Education Committee chair Brittany Pettersen.

During Gov. Hickenlooper’s final State of the State address, he seemed to share this sentiment.

“We need to transition from degree-based to skill-based training. We will not just need engineers, but huge numbers of technicians and analysts with new sets of skills.”

Hickenlooper went on to suggest that schools offer coding as an alternative foreign language, similar to Spanish or French.

Physicist and nuclear engineer Toi Massey calls it a “social injustice” when we don’t prepare our students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Massey is the founder and CEO of the JEKL Foundation for STEAM Education, which aims to empower girls and kids of color to learn about and be confident in age of technology and also focuses on the arts.

JEKL offers coding courses and other classes designed to kill the myths about one’s ability to thrive in STEM -based learning and career paths.

Like many of the people I’ve spoken with on this matter, college is no longer the end all be all to life after high school graduation. Outside practicing law and medicine a college degree isn’t always the preferred or needed next step for career preparedness.

Lesley Pace who works in technical solutions support for Google, points to co-workers who manage to earn six figures despite having no college degree or in some cases a high school diploma. “In technology, it’s not about how many degrees you have. It’s about the experience you’ve gained and the tangible skills you have.”

Colorado has more work to do to get our kids ready for tomorrow’s jobs. Unlike Pace who grew up enveloped in the tech industry, many of our rural and urban students may never have access to quality resources or be educated one of the best school districts in the state.

Lawmakers are still working ensuring all residents have equitable access to broadband. Whether it’s government-funded or community-based programming, educators and parents alike must lead the necessary charge to fill the educational gaps and get our students ready for the positions that have yet to be created. Governor Hickenlooper said it best, “Let’s get our kids prepared yesterday.”

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant is a freelance journalist, host and Emmy Award-winning politics producer. You might recognize her TV work from "Colorado Inside Out" Friday nights on CPT12.