Date: 09/08/2009

Workforce Development/Employer Best Practices


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

02:43 PM -- Workforce Development/Employer Best Practices

The committee reconvened and heard a panel presentation on the topic of workforce development/employer best practices. Panelists consisted of employers who shared their experiences in terms of best practices and business models to support employees. The panelists introduced themselves.

02:47 PM --
Ms. Liddy Romero, representing the Jefferson County Workforce Center, discussed the center's use of the Source Model, which was developed in Grand Rapids, Michigan to enhance self-sufficiency and public/private partnerships. She described the model and explained that two of the seven employer participants in the Jefferson County program were present to share their experiences. Ms. Romero discussed the challenges facing low-income workers and talked about "Bridges Out of Poverty" training, which teaches employers to understand the consequences of generational poverty in the workplace.

02:51 PM --
Ms. Jennifer Barnes, Human Resources Manager for the Kong Company in Golden, Colorado, discussed her business's participation in the Source Model. She noted that business and home life are not always separate, and personal issues may flow into the work environment. She said that most employees assume that an employer will not be able to assist them when they have a personal issue, but that communication may in fact lead to solutions for employee issues. Ms. Barnes gave an example of an injured employee who had not attended any follow-up appointments to treat his injury. Upon discussing the issue with the employee, the employer learned that the individual was concerned about past medical debts and could not afford the co-pay. She noted that the Source Model allows a company to help provide long-term support for employees, and encouraged other counties to consider the model.

02:54 PM --
Ms. Colleen True, Human Resources Director for Loveland Ski Area, discussed her business's participation in the Source Model. She addressed the effect of personal issues on work performance. Ms. True stated that the Source Model provides long-term support models to allow the employer to reach out more than would otherwise be possible.

02:57 PM --
Ms. Robin Kniech, Program Director and Staff Attorney for FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, introduced herself and described her organization. She explained that FRESC focuses on the nexus between the public and private sectors, and is concerned with connecting economic development to the creation of good jobs. She discussed states with prevailing wage policies or policies requiring employers seeking economic assistance to provide health care to their employees. Ms. Kniech discussed the competitive bid process to do business with the state and emphasized the importance of including poverty reduction as one of the criteria on which to select employers. She addressed the importance of training workers for future jobs such as green technology and discussed the importance of apprenticeship programs and local hiring. She remarked on the importance of using existing resources more widely to meet multiple goals.

03:03 PM --
Mr. Larry Lawrence, representing Colorado Building and Trade Apprenticeship Programs, stated that construction careers have been a way out of poverty for years. He discussed training and benefits given to apprentices and spoke about agreements between unions and contractors. He stated that the statewide graduation rate for apprenticeship programs is 78 percent. He explained that child care can be a challenge for construction workers, who may work hours that do not match up with the hours of operation at child care centers. He discussed assistance provided by counties such as Adams County under the Goodwill Model. Mr. Lawrence explained that the program coordinates with statewide workforce centers to provide training in job and time management. He described the sense of pride among program members, and provided an informational brochure to the members of the committee (Attachment A).


03:11 PM --
Mr. Dave Kenney, Chief Executive Officer for Efficient Forms, discussed his business. He said that Efficient Forms started in 2004 aiming to be "TurboTax for everything else," and is mainly used in human resources and government sectors. He discussed Seamless Compassion, a web-based software platform that limits paperwork and ambiguity in the benefits application process. Mr. Kenney described the company's success in helping agencies streamline their application programs.

03:20 PM --
Ms. Jenny Briggs, Human Resources Director for New Belgium Brewing Company, described her company. She discussed New Belgium's "Best Places to Work For" awards, and spoke about employee benefits and the work environment. She emphasized that employees who are happy and healthy are productive, and she discussed training programs that ensure that all employees know how to communicate with each other.

03:27 PM

Representative Kagan asked Mr. Lawrence why an ex-felon is given an apprenticeship paying $30 an hour when there is so much widespread unemployment. Mr. Lawrence responded that many people do not like doing construction work, but ex-felons, who are not given many other opportunities, appreciate the chance to work and to earn good wages. He discussed his personal experience as an ex-felon and as a member of the State Board of Corrections. He said that most ex-felons want to make their lives better, and that construction work in general has become more professional. Mr. Lawrence noted that ex-felons cannot work on all jobs, but contractors are generally willing to transfer them to different jobs; overall, Mr. Lawrence indicated that he has had a good success rate with ex-felons in the program.

03:31 PM

Senator Sandoval asked Mr. Lawrence about the percentage of women in the apprenticeship program. Mr. Lawrence explained that the percentage of women depends on the specific kind of work involved--i.e. more women train to be electricians than iron or sheet metal workers. Ms. Kniech remarked that all apprenticeship programs register with the U.S. Office of Apprenticeship and Training, which requires the program to establish recruitment goals concerning women and people of color. The office monitors each program annually to ensure that these goals are met. Representative Kagan asked for additional detail on recruitment strategies, including recruitment among high school students. Mr. Lawrence stated that 38 percent of the members of his programs are people of color, which exceeds the 30 percent goal that had been set with the Office of Apprenticeship and Training; he cited his focus on outreach as one reason why the goal has been exceeded. Responding to further questions from Representative Kagan, Mr. Lawrence described organizations that help provide information to persons interested in apprenticeship, and discussed partnerships aimed at increasing high school student awareness. Responding to questions from Representative Summers, Mr. Lawrence stated that the graduation rate of the program is 78 percent, and that individuals who do not graduate either do not show up for work or school or cannot pass the drug test.

03:38 PM

Senator Hudak and Ms. True discussed the effect that changing the school year would have on resort employment and employment in the hospitality field in general.

03:40 PM

Senator Sandoval asked Mr. Kenney for additional detail concerning Seamless Compassion. Mr. Kenney described past negotiations with the state concerning ways to make the food stamp application process more accessible. He indicated that the state had not used his company's suggestions, but Larimer County had with the help of a grant. He responded to additional questions from the committee.

03:47 PM

Representative Kefalas asked why employers would choose to use the Source Model. Ms. Romero stated that individual employers may not be as strong as a group of employers, who are able to leverage the resources of government funds, nonprofit funds, and employer funds towards training programs. Ms. Romero indicated that the model focuses on current employees and ways to make them more productive. Ms. True added that absenteeism is a very prevalent issue, and it is helpful to have a case worker address the issue before it spirals out of control. Ms. True noted that an employer cannot personally address the problems of every employee, whereas the Source Model can provide a case worker to develop a personal relationship and enable the employee to resolve their problem quickly and confidentially. Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Ms. Romero described how employers became involved in the Source Model and discussed methods of evaluating success. She noted that the program is currently in a pilot period, but that they are working towards developing ideas for long-term revenue streams and ways to track time usage.

03:54 PM

Representative Kefalas asked Ms. Briggs to discuss New Belgium's ability to grow as a business while also providing a variety of employee benefits. Ms. Briggs differentiated between short-term and long-term views of business success, and stated that investing in people brings success over the long term. She explained how the environment at New Belgium encourages its employees to work more, to give back to the company, and to have a low turnover rate. Discussion continued between Representative Kefalas and Ms. Briggs regarding the concept of a "triple bottom line," and visionary versus annual plans. Ms. Briggs remarked that letting people balance their work and their life is a key to success. Ms. Briggs responded to further questions from Senator Sandoval regarding employee ownership of the company.