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Workforce Chutes and Education Ladders

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Stackable Credentials – are a flexible approach to education where industry-recognized qualifications can be combined with degrees and certificates over time to enhance skills, advance careers, and increase earnings.

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As of 2024, Colorado leads the nation in postsecondary educational attainment. Across both undergraduate and graduate degrees, Colorado has seen multi-percentage increases in degree attainment. The state has also seen significant increases in attainment from Coloradans of color, including a 27 percent increase for Latino Coloradans, a 13 percent increase for Native and Indigenous Coloradans, and a 6 percent increase for Black Coloradans.

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Despite these increases, Colorado is still facing a severe worker shortage, with only 52 available workers for every 100 open jobs. Colorado ranks fourth-highest in the country for job openings per unemployed person. Between March and April of this year, over 4,600 jobs were added in Colorado in Education and Health Services, more than any other sector. To best prepare young adults to enter the labor market while simultaneously fortifying the Colorado workforce, we must ensure that traditional and nontraditional postsecondary pathways are appealing options for young adults to bolster their futures. To do so, we must deeply examine the experiences of young adults in the Colorado workforce and education system.

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Young Invincibles (YI) sought to examine career and educational attainment within Jefferson County, particularly the barriers and supports that young adults identify within the postsecondary landscape. This report explores the current postsecondary systems that young adults navigate, presents key themes from focus groups conducted with young Coloradans in the workforce, and provides recommendations for implementing a stackable credentials program that adequately meets the needs identified by our respondents.


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