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GradNation Workforce Summit: Creating Pathways for Colorado’s Youth

Panelists at Mile High United Way's GradNation Workforce Summit

Businesses and industry in Colorado need more skilled workers and qualified employees. Youth in Colorado need jobs. On May 7, Mile High United Way led the GradNation Workforce Summit to tackle these very issues and discuss how to create pathways for young Coloradans to succeed in school, work and life. 

At the summit, three Colorado youth shared how internships, mentors and work/study programs exposed them to different career options, helped them identify career goals and gave them confidence to pursue those goals. As one student said, “When you change the trajectory of a student, you also change the trajectory of the state.”

Through our Youth Success initiative, Mile High United Way works year-round to ensure that all youth graduate high school prepared for work or college, which made us a natural fit for the GradNation Workforce Summit. 

“We know that Colorado’s future relies on the future we can build for young people, said Christine Benero, President and CEO of Mile High United Way. “We are beginning to change the conversation about what success looks like for youth: we aspire to make college available to every young person who wants that, but there are 4-year colleges and 2-year colleges, apprenticeships and certificate programs. This Summit was about all of those pathways to success, and the potential of our business, education, legislative and nonprofit communities to build them.”

The Summit’s opening panel addressed several questions related to challenges and opportunities the business community sees in relation to the jobs pipeline. Fiona Arnold, Executive Director of the Colorado office of Economic Development and International Trade, delivered the keynote, speaking of the Hickenlooper administration’s focus on workforce development. “The State of Colorado is working on creating crossovers between industry, education and government in order to develop more jobs. The GradNation summit is the perfect conversation to be having as a strategy that can help fuel the middle-skills jobs pipeline,” said Arnold.

Research has shown that youth who have access to more of the essential academic, health and life resources – caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others – are more likely to succeed academically and socially. Summit attendees discussed how Metro Denver can better align programs supporting youth around these areas. Many of the representatives from 60 local businesses pledged to engage high school students in new ways in the coming school year.

Mile High United Way is committed to acting as the connector between business and education leaders to collectively highlight promising solutions and integrate them into the community. 

Mile High United Way’s GradNation Summit was one of 100 that will be held around the country through 2016. The Summits are co-sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance as part of its large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020. Read the AP News story on the Summit.

Learn more about our Youth Success initiative