2023 is presenting a myriad of unique challenges for companies to navigate. Perhaps most notable of these challenges is workforce – even in the midst of economic uncertainty, businesses are facing challenges recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified employees. With this in mind, Denver South kicked off the 2023 Partnership Meeting series with a diverse panel, representing a wide swath of Denver South organizations and stakeholders, to address how local organizations are both navigating today’s workforce challenges and are securing the region’s talent pipeline for the future. The event was hosted at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, a high school that provides Career Technical Education (CTE) courses to connect students to careers that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Alex Sabin, Assistant Principal for the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC), opened the meeting with a sneak peek behind the 3-year-old campus –a critical component of securing the region’s future talent pipeline. CCIC provides 10th through 12th graders the opportunity to explore seven different technical career pathways, with each offering the opportunity to build a stable, sustainable career. In tandem with their home high school, CCIC enables students to earn credentials and certifications in several pathways, in order to best prepare their students for the workforce. CCIC partners with many Denver South companies to provide training and hands-on learning opportunities so students can gauge whether the field is a career they want to pursue. These students have become an invaluable talent pipeline within the region. Additionally, as 75% of CCIC students desire to pursue a college degree following graduation from high school, the school has partnered with local colleges to provide students the opportunity to concurrently earn high school and college credits. This ensures that students can get a jump-start on their careers without a financial investment up front. Not only does CCIC invest in hard skills, but they also intentionally invest in the soft skills one needs to succeed at a workplace. Communication, collaboration, and preparation are just a few of the skills that are emphasized to students daily to ensure that, upon graduation, students are set up for success in a field they are excited to enter.

Jake Swanton, Head of Social Impact & Government Partnerships for Guild Education, highlighted why excitement and opportunities for growth are critical to employee retention. Within the next five years, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials or Gen-Z – two age cohorts that place high importance on career growth and development in a job. These generations are often seen as job-hoppers, yet data indicates they are more loyal – and more likely to stay at a company –  if advancement opportunities are available. In an economy where 69% of companies are struggling with talent shortages, employers must both retain talent and use it in the most effective way possible. Swanton highlighted how Guild Education partners with employers to create cultures of opportunity by implementing internal educational and upskilling courses. By providing opportunities for employees to enhance and grow their skillsets, and by providing a clear path for advancement, companies are investing in career mobility, talent attraction and retention, and DEI initiatives. The results, Swanton says, speak for themselves—employees who participate in these types of programs see 2x role mobility, 2.4x higher wages, and are 2x more likely to be promoted than those who do not participate in these programs. This lends itself to greater employee engagement, which in turn leads to greater longevity and retention.

Josh Cirbo, General Manager for Mikron USA, provided tangible insights into the steps they are taking to attract and retain talent as they continue to expand their Denver South footprint. First and foremost, Cirbo emphasized that Mikron does not simply hire for the roles they have historically had; instead, they are continually examining their job descriptions to ensure they are hiring for the right skillsets. To stand out in a competitive market, Mikron is overhauling their job posting process, ensuring their job openings represent full compensation, and not just a salary. This includes highlighting benefits many job seekers may not consider, including the company’s coverage of health insurance, taxes for the new FAMLI program, and opportunities to work out of Mikron offices in Europe and Asia. Mikron recruiters are also willing to review competing job offers to help applicants determine which offer is best for them – even if the better offer is not from Mikron. Additionally, Mikron is continually examining alternate talent pipelines to identify potential employees whose resumes may be overlooked by other companies, such as former members of the military. A component of this is Mikron’s apprenticeship program. In exchange for a three-year commitment to work at the company, students participating in the apprenticeship program are given the opportunity to obtain a two-year degree in manufacturing at no cost to them. This growing program is giving high school students the opportunity to pursue a challenging, rewarding career, while earning the certifications they need at no cost to them. Once hired, Cirbo and his team work to build the company’s internal culture, hosting events and get-togethers to build connection and community within the company. These connections are, according to Cirbo, critical to employee retention.

While there is no automatic fix to these challenges, we are excited about the work being done in Denver South for both today and the future. Our region has a bright future thanks to the creative, innovative minds we heard from at our February Partnership Meeting, and we thank everyone who was able to join us.

We hope you can join us April 6th for our next Partnership Meeting at the Lone Tree Arts Center. Registration can be found here.

To view Alex’s presentation, click here.

To view Josh’s presentation, click here.