State grants boost education for in-demand careers

Yampa Valley efforts will receive $1 million

Students in Moffat County High School's current Structural Design and Fabrication/Plumbing and Electrical Installation class work on building sheds that are sold to support the program. Through Opportunity Now state funding, students with have opportunities to obtain trade certifications and connect with internships and apprenticeships.
Shelby Massey/Courtesy photo

A new cooperative organization with ties to Craig received a $2.9 million seed grant this week through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

That cooperative group includes the Yampa Valley Partnership for Students, Stewardship and Sustainability, or YVPS3, based in Craig. Established in early 2023, YVPS3 will receive a direct benefit for the Yampa Valley of almost $1 million, as part of the overall $2.9 million grant, according to the partnership’s executive director, Jessica Counts. The Moffat County School District is serving as the fiscal agent for the grant.

Other partnering organizations along with YVPS3 include the Fremont Multi-District Initiative, Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative and Western Slope Schools Career Collaborative. The partnership encompasses four K-12 school districts, multiple industry partners, Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig and Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.

The mission of Craig-based YVPS3 is “to unite educators, industry leaders and students throughout the Yampa Valley with the common goal to create shared educational and career pathways that empower students and contribute to a more resilient region.”

In the Yampa Valley, one example of benefits from the funding would include expansion of career and technical educational opportunities such as dual credit classes for high school students earning college credit at the same time in the fields of natural resources, construction and health care, Counts said.

The state funding was awarded this week to 43 recipients for more than $55 million in Opportunity Now Colorado grants, according to a governor’s office media release. The funding will support the creation and expansion of programs that prepare Coloradans for in-demand, high-wage jobs and careers. Overall, the funding will support the work of 190 businesses and 218 education partners in 17 industries, with 45% of funds supporting rural communities.

“We are profoundly grateful for the Opportunity Now grant awarded to empower Western Slope communities, particularly in the Yampa Valley, as we navigate the crucial transition from coal,” said Jennifer Holloway, executive director at Craig Chamber of Commerce, in a media release. “By nurturing these initiatives, we bridge the gap between education and industry, cultivating a skilled workforce that not only adapts to current needs but also fuels long-term economic sustainability.”

A Moffat County High School student in the 2023-24 Advanced Welding/Metal Fabrication course works on a welding project.
Shelby Massey/Courtesy photo

Opportunity Now funds regional partnerships among educational institutions, industry leaders and employers focused on meeting the workforce needs of Colorado’s most in-demand industries. Those top workforce sectors include health care, education, infrastructure and construction, as well as advanced industries in sectors such as quantum, semiconductors, clean tech and advanced manufacturing.

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