The most recent reports seem like good news for the economy: unemployment is at an 18-year low.
Unfortunately, there are a few caveats, one of them being the employment crisis economists and forecasters have been warning us about for the last few years. There will simply be more jobs in certain trades than workers with the right skills to fill them.
A recent Federal Reserve report found that nearly every market in the country reported “ongoing labor market tightness and challenges finding qualified workers across skills and sectors, which, in some instances, was described as constraining growth.” And while there are millions of jobs flooding the market, they are remaining unfilled.
It’s a real problem, and as with many of the world’s biggest problems, some are beginning to find solutions on a smaller scale.
Seeking to find ways to solve this issue locally, Arapahoe/Douglas Works! (ADW) is addressing one of the fundamental issues the employment crisis is unearthing: workforce development.
There are people who want to work, who are applying to jobs, but whose skills simply don’t match what the market needs.
Here are some of the key ways ADW is creating pathways, opportunities and processes that may one day become a blueprint to help solve the national employment crisis.
Preparing mature jobseekers for the 21st century
As the market shifts, employers aren’t just looking for kids coming out of school with the right skills. Part of solving the problem means enabling workers in at-risk categories to learn new skills and update their job-seeking approach.
One of ADW’s many free programs includes services for adult job-seekers who are re-entering the market, including a program called Generations At Work aimed at providing services for those 50 and older.
And it works. The Parker Chronicle recently featured a story on Lynn Johnson, who lost her job as an executive, and with ADW’s help was able to find a perfect fit making more money.
“They provided me with all the skills I needed to be successful,” Johnson told the Chronicle. Those skills include things like learning best practices for video interviews, how to update resumés for the digital age and navigating LinkedIn.
These are all things that many workers didn’t need to think about when they entered the workforce, even just 20 years ago. It’s a different world today, and while many workers may actually have the skills employers are looking for, telling that story isn’t always easy. ADW provides the resources to get those who have real-world experience back in the workforce.

Return of the apprenticeship
One of the biggest areas of need will be in so-called middle-skill jobs. These are jobs that require specialized knowledge, but not a 4-year degree.
Meanwhile, we’ve been telling kids that they have to get at least a bachelor’s degree if they want a good job. This has created a disconnect where we have well-educated college graduates who aren’t well matched to the jobs the market is demanding.
ADW is addressing this issue by bringing back internships. Their young adult program provides real-world, on-the-job training when traditional educational paths didn’t work out.
Sitting behind a desk and writing term papers isn’t for everyone, and ADW recognizes that. At the same time, they are also opening up career paths for young adults to find stable, and often lucrative, careers in areas where employers desperately need skilled laborers.
As Yahoo! Finance points out, “At the high-school level … most students are mystified about how to get started on a career.”
ADW takes the mystery out of it, and by doing so helps both young adults in need of a good job, and employers clamoring for laborers.
Businesses need help, too
ADW isn’t only focused on job seekers. They recognize that if the labor shortage is to be addressed, business leaders have a very active role to play.
ADW’s business programs include services around education on current market trends and conditions, matching candidates with open positions and how to retain long-term employees.
It’s imperative that business leaders make their voices heard, otherwise workforce development initiatives won’t be able to match laborers with needed skills. ADW brings together business and education leaders alongside job seekers to facilitate workforce development that will match market demands.
That doesn’t just mean preparing job seekers to find the job they want, but educating businesses on how to post job descriptions and manage hiring processes that will result in finding the right candidates.

Solving the problem, one step at a time
ADW is leading the charge in workforce development, not just for Colorado, but providing a template for the entire country. Starting locally ADW has shown that the free services they provide (yep, you read that right: free) work — actually, they work really well.
Job seekers who utilized ADW’s services make an average of $12,000 to $14,000 more annually than those who didn’t during their job search, and the program is winning national awards for their work.
It might seem like just a small part of the problem is being addressed, but it provides a blueprint for other municipalities struggling to address labor shortages. As the employment crisis is expected to grow in the next few years, ADW will lead the way as a shining example of sparking workforce development in smart, practical ways that work for everyone.