Polis: I'll be a governor for all

Jared Polis at Main Street Bagels.

Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Wednesday creating a new office designed to help the state better plan for the workforce of the future.

The Office of the Future of Work, as Polis is calling it, is to be an off-shoot of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. It is designed, in part, to help better prepare Coloradans for potential job losses in declining fields, and train them for emerging careers.

"Colorado's economy is the envy of the nation, but to ensure that success touches everyone in our state we must prepare workers for the jobs of the future," Polis said. "Technology, cost of education and shifting need for skills are just a few of the challenges our workforce faces. This office will be dedicated to developing effective strategies to combat these challenges and set Coloradans up to thrive."

The new office, to be headed by labor department executive director Joe Barela, is to report to the governor at least once a year to make recommendations for policy changes aimed at preparing the state's workforce with the necessary training to take jobs in emerging industries.

It is to work with the newly formed Just Transition Office, which was created under House Bill 1314 enacted by the Colorado Legislature during this year's session. That office, also a branch of the department, has the more specific mandate of helping displaced coal workers train for new careers.

"The way people work is changing, and we have a responsibility to make sure that nobody gets left behind," said Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, who partially introduced the bill. "It shouldn't matter if you live in a rural or urban area, everyone should have access to the tools necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy."

The new office also is to coordinate its efforts with other state agencies and local stakeholders.

"The office shall develop an ongoing working task force, and host, organize and convene summits and other appropriate meetings with diverse stakeholders," the executive order reads. "Such summits and meetings shall be designed to improve the state's understanding of the varied social and economic impacts of the changing nature of work."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the fastest declining occupations in the nation include such jobs as textile workers, secretaries, postal carriers and computer data entry workers.

The bureau also says that some of the fastest growing jobs are in such fields as personnel and home health aides, solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians. 

It is unknown how much the new office will cost. Polis' executive order calls on the department to work with the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting to identify funding needs. At least for now, the office is to consist of a single employee, someone who already works for the state, said department spokeswoman Cher Haavind.

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