By Kelly Brough, President & CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
In just six short years, 74% of jobs in Colorado will require some sort of post-secondary education. It’s a daunting stat even for a highly educated region like ours in which roughly 47% of adults have a two- or four-year college degree (which ranks us second only to Massachusetts in terms of degrees per capita).
Just think about that for a minute – we rank second in the nation for the number of adults per capita with a college degree, yet we are still positioned to fall far short of our estimated workforce needs.
In Colorado, we’re known for our smart and healthy workforce, but we have been delivering that top-quality workforce by importing talent to our region. With a thriving economy like ours, an appealing and collaborative business community, and year-round recreation, it hasn’t been tough for us to draw people here.
But our future workforce demands clearly outpace the rate at which we’re drawing educated workers into this region.
If we want to ensure that our children will have the skills needed to drive Colorado’s economic future and compete on a global level, it’s imperative that we grow our own workforce in Colorado. That’s why we’ve pushed so hard to support high expectations for teachers, principals, and students.
As a business community, we’re extremely supportive of incorporating Common Core standards into our schools via the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS). We’re a founding member of Future Forward Colorado, a joint effort of several business organizations developed to support the CAS, which we believe are a smart approach to preparing kids to succeed in college and careers.
These standards test for the real-world skills – like critical thinking, problem solving, and strong communication – that students need to succeed in today’s workplaces. They meet the business community’s expectations of measuring if students are college- and career-ready. And, CAS are grounded in evidence and internationally benchmarked—which means we can actually compare our kids’ progress against the rest of the country and others in the world.
The business community in Colorado isn’t alone in our support of Common Core and CAS. More than 85% of Colorado parents favor the Common Core approach to math, which emphasizes real understanding of mathematical concepts over memorization. And 81% of parents are in favor of the fact that Common Core English and Language Arts standards focus on critical thinking and analysis, two skills we can all agree are necessary to succeed in the business world.
Lowering our standards and expectations isn’t the right answer for our kids. Common Core standards set high expectations, that’s for sure. But, they also provide flexibility for teachers and administrators to develop their own curriculum and ensure students are prepared to excel.
In Colorado, we incorporated Common Core into the CAS with the input of teachers, parents, businesses, school administrators, and experts from the Colorado Department of Education. Taking that collaborative approach resulted in a set of standards that we believe will help our students reach their potential and be ready to succeed in their careers.
If we don’t act now, we simply won’t produce the workforce needed to meet our economic needs in the future. You can learn more about how our business community is supporting Common Core by going toFutureForwardColorado.org.