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Five reasons RTD cares about workforce development—and you should, too

If you’ve visited newspaper websites lately, listened to your local radio station or watched television news programs, chances are you’ve heard stories about workforce development in Colorado.

During his State of the State address in January, for instance, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced plans to launch the second phase of an economic development plan that will focus on high unemployment in the state’s rural counties. The governor also called on Colorado’s business sector to place a greater focus on, you guessed it, workforce development programs.

Heeding the governor’s call to action, state lawmakers this past legislative session supported several workforce development bills, a barometer of how much of a hot topic the issue has become. A bipartisan group of legislators joined forces in March to introduce a package of bills designed to encourage companies and schools to work together to create a pipeline for high school and college students who want to kick start careers in industries that are having a hard time recruiting qualified employees. The governor signed them into law in May, a move hailed by the state’s construction industry, which has warned of looming worker shortages for years.

WIN participants work on the East Rail - A Line

With an aging workforce, the transportation industry—which includes public transit agencies such as the Regional Transportation District—saw the writing on the wall years ago and began implementing programs designed to recruit workers—especially from the millennial generation—into the industry.

Transit is an important part of the transportation equation, which is why RTD participated in a Stand up 4 Transportation rally in downtown Denver. This was the inaugural year for the day of advocacy to call on local, state and federal lawmakers to support continued funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

So, here are five reasons RTD cares about workforce development, and you should, too:

  1. You Can Bask in the Glow of National Attention
    RTD’s Workforce Initiative Now, or WIN, was a pioneer in the workforce development arena, even though RTD launched it a mere four years ago. Since its 2011 inception, however, WIN has drawn the interest of other U.S. public transit agencies and federal transportation officials seeking to learn best practices when it comes to training people for long-term careers in transportation and construction.
  2. You Get to Be Immortal
    RTD launched WIN initially to build a pipeline of skilled workers who could help fill jobs on RTD’s FasTracks transit expansion projects such as the Eagle P3, the largest transit-oriented public-private partnership in the United States. As it turns out, workers who train through workforce development programs get classroom and real-world, on-the-job training that can give them an edge when they apply for jobs. There are other benefits, too, like helping to build keystone infrastructure in Colorado that will be around when your grandchildren are roaming the city and can point and say, “My grandma worked on that project!” or “My granddad helped install the great train hall canopy at Denver Union Station!”
  3. You Make a Lot of Friends
    Over the past four years, WIN has formed partnerships with 58 resource and training partners, including founding partners Community College of Denver, the Urban League of Metro Denver and Denver Transit Partners, the contractor-concessionaire building out Eagle P3’s three commuter rail lines. WIN has also forged alliances with small businesses, trade associations, veterans groups and others who support job creation and career development.
  4. You’re an Ambassador—Without Leaving the Country
    The only passport you need on this trip is a willingness to help others. When you support workforce development, you get to work with local communities as an ambassador of goodwill. WIN launch its WIN Ambassadors program in late June 2015, and will work to recruit small businesses across the Denver metro region that can help promote workforce development neighborhood by neighborhood. The initiative’s goal is to tap into the power of the small business network to create job opportunities and support thriving communities.
  5. You Get to Make a Difference in Someone’s Life
    Is there a better feeling than knowing you’ve done something to help someone climb the job ladder to success? When you support a workforce development program, you are doing exactly that, whether you are a trainer, an employer, a small business owner or a public transit agency like RTD. The transportation, transit and construction industries provide a wide variety of opportunities for people of all backgrounds, ages and skill levels.