Editor’s Notebook: K-12 holds labor-woe answer

Education of future work force must start at early age

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Northern Colorado, if not the entire state and nation, during the next decade is the shortage of qualified labor.

So it’s always gratifying to hear of initiatives to tackle that problem — even more gratifying to observe an initiative arise out of the business community, as with Norwest Bank’s recent sponsorship of a forum designed to address that problem.

Conducted March 18 at the Marriott Hotel in Fort Collins, the event included talks by Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler, as well as members of the business, education and high-school-student communities. The topic of the day was School to Careers, a program that encourages business input on education of the region’s youth.

Virtually every industry in Northern Colorado complains of a labor shortage, but what they’re really complaining about is a qualified labor shortage. It’s not that prospective employees don’t exist — although unemployment remains extremely low — but that many job applicants lack necessary skills or discipline to excel in their jobs. Often, employers have to settle for the first person who actually shows up for a job interview.

Community colleges such as Aims Community College in Greeley are striving to provide local businesses with the qualified and quality applicants that they need, but it’s clear that more needs to be done at the K-12 level and beyond. That’s where School to Careers comes in. By teaching kids about business, specific occupations, work ethics, etc., business leaders can help ensure that their future employees have the requisite skills.

Business men and women can get involved with School to Careers through a number of means, including:

” Provide counsel to educators instilling career knowledge into their curriculum.

” Become a mentor to a student.

” Offer an internship to a student.

” Become a guest lecturer at a school, offering real-world experience.

” Invite students to your place of business.

But that’s the good news. The bad news is that attendance at the School-to-Careers forum was disappointing, probably less than 100. Three times that number should have shown up, given the gloom-and-doom warnings of a pending labor nightmare and the seriousness with which this region should regard work-force education.

How serious is the shortage of labor in your company? If you’d define it as a serious shortfall, or if it would affect your plans to expand, plan on attending the next forum that seeks to address the problem.

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As promised, this issue marks the debut of a news column devoted to agribusiness. It demonstrates our commitment to covering that vital industry, from farming to meat-packing, from machinery to food byproducts. Dana Judy, who will write the column for us, welcomes any story ideas. You can reach her in care of this newspaper, and don’t be surprised if she calls your agribusiness, just to see what’s going on.

Additionally, those who normally peruse our Business Databank section will notice that we’ve been slowly but surely expanding the data that we offer. We now include foreclosures, tax liens and judgements from Weld County, and our new-business listings will be vastly expanded beginning next issue.

We’re also working to provide more disciplinary actions from a variety of industries as those actions are handed down by the state’s regulatory agencies.

Ever-more-innovative offerings lie ahead. If there’s a type of data that you’d like to see included in the Business Report’s Business Databank section, give me a call, and I’ll see what I can do.

Christopher Wood can be reached at (970) 221-5400, (970) 356-1683, (800) 440-3506, or via fax at (970) 221-5432. His e-mail address is ncbr@aol.com.