Romer: With local job training, we can keep and attract our workforce (column) | VailDaily.com

Romer: With local job training, we can keep and attract our workforce (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

Think about a city that has been down on its luck; a former powerhouse, now viewed as a shell of its former self. You might think of Detroit.

Looking back to 2015, Detroit had recently exited bankruptcy and signs of resurgence were evident, as community leaders recognized the city's success would be incomplete if young children and families did not thrive as a result. If Detroit's upsurge was creating opportunities for business and other sectors, then shouldn't its youngest residents — any city's most precious resource — experience the same kind of benefits?

In 2016, Detroit started a community visioning process titled "Hope Starts Here." The focus was to create a vision of what early childhood could look like, to create a community framework to make that vision a reality and to inspire community members to get involved and bring the framework to life.

We're not Detroit, but we can learn from Detroit and apply the lessons locally. Its success and momentum with the Hope Starts Here effort can be duplicated in Eagle County on any number of community issues not limited to early childhood. The model can be applied to health insurance, housing or workforce development efforts.

Data released by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that both hiring and wages are up. Perhaps your company has first-hand experience. You are trying to hire new talent, but you know that doing so will require you to offer higher wages than you have in the past. So what do you do when higher wages alone are not enough to attract the talent you need?

Department of Labor's Employment Cost Index statistics show employers spent 0.6 percent more on employment costs in the fourth quarter of 2017, after absorbing a 0.7 percent rise the previous quarter. The total year-on-year rate increase for the period ending with the third quarter of 2017 was 2.6 percent. That translates to a 2.8 percent average wage increase for the 12 months ending this past December.

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One more thing to note: Experts are predicting 2018 wage growth to continue at the same rate. Colorado's unemployment rate has fallen to 2.8 percent and Eagle County's unemployment is under 2 percent. We need to address our talent issues locally.

Making a Difference

We have the partners in the community making a difference. Consider Colorado Mountain College as a case study. Colorado Mountain College has been nationally ranked for student success by CNN/Money. The college was rated No. 1 among Colorado's colleges offering associate degrees for graduation plus transfer rates and was named by the prestigious Aspen Institute as one of the top 13 percent of US colleges eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize, and offers the third most affordable bachelor degree program in the country.

CMC measures its success through student success — and student success results in a talent pipeline for our future workforce needs. We are fortunate to have them in our region as they provide high-quality education that is affordable and accessible, helping all students meet their individual educational goals. Access to affordable higher education is a key factor to our workforce development challenges, and our community partnerships with CMC are vital to our continued economic success.

Hope Starts Here is a program that resulted in meaningful change in Detroit due to the work of numerous community partners. One of Eagle County's main challenges to continued economic growth and success is developing a talent pipeline, and supporting our business community job needs. Hope does, in fact, start with our community partnerships.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.