Group urges collaboration to boost business climate

Jobs Cabinet members want Colorado businesses, educators and economic development groups to share ideas in order to get the best results.

Mesa County Workforce Center Director Sue Tuffin says she doesn’t know any other way to do business.

“Collaboration is something this community has done historically and does very, very well,” Tuffin said.

The 31-member volunteer Jobs Cabinet delivered recommendations for improving the state’s business climate to Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday. After 16 months of meetings, surveys and public comment, the cabinet made five suggestions to the state:

1. Encourage the state’s 19 regional workforce investment boards to collaborate with each other and help people in the same industry share information across the state.

2. Ask employers to talk to colleges and training centers about what skills, certifications and training they’d like employees to have.

3. Promote work force development group services and classes more frequently and in various places, especially online.

4. Funnel business resource Web sites onto one state Web portal on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s site.

5. Identify a senior executive leader to serve as a liaison between the state and businesses, schools and economic development boards and have members of the Colorado Workforce Development Council monitor the progress of the cabinet’s suggestions.

Tuffin said the first suggestion is mostly taken care of already in Mesa County. The Mesa County Workforce Investment Board, which brings public and private industry representatives together to discuss how best to make sure people are properly educated to get and keep a job, is applying for a health care grant with regional workforce boards north and south of the Mesa County region, she said.

“Many of us share the same employer pool or job seeker pool. It makes sense to work across those (county) boundaries,” Tuffin said.

Mesa County is largely meeting goal number two, Mesa State College spokeswoman Dana Nunn said. Local business leaders, work force center and Grand Junction Economic Partnership employees, Mesa State College, School District 51 and Western Colorado Community College workers and others cross-pollinate ideas on each others’ boards, and the colleges have advisory committees filled with people representing industries that could benefit from having their employees trained at Mesa State or WCCC.

The efforts of the advisory board and local industry requests have launched several programs at both colleges, Nunn said, including the POST police officer training academy and mechanical engineering, electric lineman and construction management programs. A certification program for people hoping to get a job installing solar panels is next on the list at WCCC.

“Administration looks at market place projections for where needs are to be to help identify programs that have potential,” Nunn said.

While some businesses and organizations have embraced social networking, Tuffin said she’s not so sure about suggestion number three. The work force center tried to recruit summer workers in 2008 on Facebook and found little success.

“Unfortunately we were getting a lot of unusual people,” she said.

Tuffin said she would support using the Web to attract people to computer-centric jobs, though, and she’d like more area businesses to entice employees with virtual tours of the Grand Junction area and their potential workplace.

The cabinet’s suggestions may be redundant in some local cases, but should not be cast aside, GJEP President and CEO Ann Driggers said.

“There’s always room for improvement,” she said.


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