You have often heard the drumbeat: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

What might set you apart in your job search is a companion drumbeat that’s getting louder by the day: Skills, Skills, Skills.

With the unemployment rate in late 2017 at 2.9 percent in Colorado and 4.1 percent nationally, employers are challenged in finding the right people for the jobs they seek to fill. And jobs are available in abundance.

Colorado is one of the leaders of this new drumbeat, as Front Range Community College has seen firsthand.

Skillful State Network

On Valentine’s Day, Gov. Hickenlooper joined with Zoë Baird, CEO and president of the Markle Foundation, in announcing that Hickenlooper and 19 other governors – nine Democrats and 11 Republicans – are forming the Skillful State Network.

Skillful, a Markle Foundation initiative, started in Colorado, and FRCC has been involved since early on. Skillful seeks to transform the U.S. labor market to one that is skills-based. Its goal is to help people demonstrate or obtain the skills needed for good jobs in today’s digital economy.

Skillful provides a set of online and offline tools to connect middle-skill job seekers with employers, educators, and community coaches so they can advance their careers.

That’s where community colleges come in. We train for many middle-skills jobs.

The Skillful State Network’s founding governors committed to share what works in their states. They also have made partnership and innovation in workforce development a state priority to enable their residents and local employers to thrive.

Network members will share best practices, access and implement the Skillful’s tools and data, and sharpen their engagement within their labor markets.

Governor’s Coaching Corps

One of Colorado’s best practices is a Governor’s Coaching Corps. This eight-month program is giving 28 career coaches – the one from FRCC participating is a career counselor – the tools and training needed to better serve job seekers and the employers who need workers with demonstrable skills to do the tasks that need to be done.

There’s that word again – skills. Employers are starting to advertise for skills rather than jobs. And potential employees are showing skills and experiences along with degrees and other credentials.

Job Description? No, Skills Description

Skillful points to Paul Harter of Aqua Hot Heating Systems in Frederick as an example of this change in thinking and what it has meant for his company.

“A big change for us is how we think about skills in job descriptions,” Paul says on Skillful’s website. “Also, rather than focusing on titles or degrees on an applicant’s resume, I’m looking to see what soft skills and job-related skills they offer. The end result is that we not only have more applicants applying, but we have applicants who are better aligned with the job.”

It’s a different drumbeat in today’s economy. Employers can’t say “I have a job opening.” They need to say “I have a skills opening.” And job seekers must say I have the skills you are looking for.

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