Vail Daily column: The importance of workforce development | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The importance of workforce development

One under appreciated and often unrecognized priority area for our community is a focused effort workforce development. Workforce development efforts in our rural resort region need to focus on a holistic approach — recognizing industry needs, and at the same time meeting individual needs by considering the many barriers to both individuals and business and the overall needs of our region moving forward.

These are big challenges that impact both our businesses and our people, and as a result our entire community. Challenges include a shortage of workforce (particularly in skilled labor positions), changing demographics and a lack of easily understood career pathways for students.

Because of this, Vail Valley Partnership's board of governors has identified workforce development as a key strategic priority area. We recognize that our community needs a unified approach in order to meet the needs of industry, grow a skilled workforce, maintain a career pathway for our young professionals, grow internships and career opportunities and provide opportunities for new entrepreneurs.

Consider our changing demographics. Eagle County's population is currently one of Colorado's youngest, but is rapidly aging. While the youth, 18 to 25, and 46 to 60-year-old segments of the population remain constant at 25 percent, 8 percent and 19 percent of the total population, respectively, state demographers are predicting a decline in the "family age" group of 26 to 45-year-olds, from almost 40 percent of the total in 2005 to about 24 percent by the year 2035. The older population, 61 and above, grows markedly, forecasted to comprise 22 percent of the total by 2035.

We believe that well-functioning communities don’t happen by accident, and resilient and consistently high performing communities require the engagement of their high performing businesses to push their communities beyond the status quo.

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Increasing Demand

The impending demographic shift, and an increasing demand for skilled workforce across industry sectors, requires a concerted community approach to workforce development efforts. The Partnership takes a lead role in a variety of workforce efforts, including serving on the Rural Workforce Consortium board, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments economic development district, Colorado Mountain College advisory council and working closely with Eagle County Schools and YouthPower365 on the school district Career X program. We're also happy to work closely with the Vail Valley Rotary Clubs and Colorado Workforce Center on the annual Career Fair for high school students.

Meeting Industry Needs

The solution is obvious, but not easy to address. Education and training need to be fully accessible to all. Workforce development initiatives that educate and train individuals to meet the needs of current and future business and industry are needed to maintain a sustainable competitive economic environment. Our school system — Eagle County Schools and Colorado Mountain College, and our partners such as Youth Power 365, Vail Valley Partnership, Colorado Workforce Center and others — need to continue to focus efforts and resources on addressing workforce and training to meet industry needs.

We engage and are involved in these efforts because we believe workforce development is important to our business community and future business growth. Of equal importance is providing pathways and tools to connect industry leaders and emerging professionals, and facilitating ways for industry leaders to build their professional networks.

Vail Valley NEXT program

The Vail Valley NEXT program and our new Vail Valley Power Groups are designed with this goal in mind — developing our workforce, connecting our emerging leaders to each other and to established business leaders, and building networks of professionals within our business community. This, in turn, helps provide tools and resources to business to invest back in their people to develop the skills needed to succeed in what is an increasingly challenging business environment.

We have built these programs — and our full membership benefit program — with this in mind, and look forward to the continued involvement of the business community in the future of the Partnership. We take pride in pursuing a variety of collaborative and innovative programs to benefit our members to help achieve our vision of improving economic vitality in the Vail Valley. We believe that well-functioning communities don't happen by accident, and resilient and consistently high performing communities require the engagement of their high performing businesses to push their communities beyond the status quo.

Vail Valley Partnership members have access to business tools and resources including marketing benefits, discounted advertising opportunities, networking events, educational programming, member discounts & savings, Leads groups and destination visitor leads. If you are not a member, we hope you'll consider membership as a component of your business growth plans in 2017 to leverage our workforce efforts and other business resources available to our members. If you are already a member, we hope you'll continue to engage in our programming and utilize our benefits.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.