Colorado has an overflow of job openings — and nobody to fill them
As the state scrambles to find workers for high-demand jobs, MSU Denver creates pathways for adult and nontraditional learners to fill the gap.
Colorado’s workforce is struggling. After historically relying on transplants with college degrees to contribute to the workforce, the state now has two job openings for every available worker.
For context, summer 2022 saw 208,000 job openings in the state but only 129,000 hires, leaving Colorado as one of 14 states with more jobs listings than it had prior to the pandemic.
MSU Denver is aiming to make it even easier to enter the workforce or build career skills through nontraditional programs such as Career Launchpad and Finish What You Started, while remaining the state’s top transfer destination.
According to a recent talent-pipeline report, around 600,000 Coloradans have some college experience and no degree. One of the best ways to address the workforce gap is by catering to transfer students, says Tiffani Baldwin, Ph.D., MSU Denver’s director of Transfer and Adult Student Success. Since these students have some credits, they can graduate and enter the workforce faster than those without any college experience.
Transfer students such as Maria Dos Santos Oliveira make up about half of MSU Denver’s student body. Dos Santos Oliveira came to MSU Denver with an associate’s degree and is working toward finishing her bachelor’s in Business Management. She says students are provided with multiple job-readiness resources on campus, including career fairs, workshops, mock interviews and more.
“These workshops are incredibly helpful,” she said. “Mock interviews prepare you for job interviews, and résumé workshops provide the tools to have the best résumé at every stage of your career. Career fairs also have some of the best companies in multiple industries and sectors. By attending these events, you’re able to speak with professionals, network and connect with potential employers.”
Students with some college experience but no degree may be eligible for the Finish What You Started program. The program provides personal, professional, academic and financial support for residents who are on track to graduate by May 2026, have been out of college for at least two semesters, can maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average while in the program and can prove they have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
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Taking into account inflation and the number of available jobs open, this program provides a pathway for entry-level employees to move up in their fields and potentially receive higher pay. That’s exactly what Aida Beyene hopes to do.
Beyene began the Finish What You Started program after a 15-year career in telecommunications. She had completed a few years of college, and finishing her degree in Cybersecurity was something she knew she wanted to do.
“I’ve always wanted to finish my degree,” Beyene said. “I dropped out a few times just because I had some roadblocks, but it was always a personal goal of mine to finish my degree.”
Beyene aims to further her career as a cybersecurity analyst in a field that has over 25,000 openings in Colorado.
For those looking to level up without necessarily committing to a full degree, the Career Launchpad program allows students to explore high-demand fields and earn credentials toward certifications or to turn those credentials into course credit later. MSU Denver offers courses in Health Care, Cybersecurity, Public Health, Construction Management, Advanced Manufacturing, Business, Space Flight Operations and more.
For students such as Emilee Vuksta, it can be a great way to gain additional skills and explore different career paths in their current fields.
Vuksta, who has her master’s in Health Administration, is a workforce-projects manager at the Colorado Rural Health Center. When her office partnered with MSU Denver through a grant to recruit and retain rural health care workers, it was a no-brainer for Vuksta to sign up for the Career Launchpad’s Health Navigation Fundamentals course.
“I thought it was really a great way to get a foot in the door,” Vuksta said. “This is a course for someone who wants to work in administrative or policy health care. I think it was a well-rounded course and covered a lot of good topics for getting to understand the field.”
Of the total 105,128 graduates from MSU Denver, almost 75% have gone on to join the Colorado workforce, with health care and computer software being some of the top careers for alumni.
To learn more about affordable, introductory courses in high-demand fields, visit the Career Launchpad.
For information on degree-completion resources, visit Finish What You Started.