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Colorado Technology Foundation Seeks Systemic Change in Tech Education

Denver Public Schools students visited technoloy companies as part of Colorado Technology Foundation’s Career Connections program

The Colorado Technology Association (CTA) and its membership has seen first-hand many of the skills gaps that Colorado high school and college graduates bring to the expanding high-tech workforce here. The association heard from its membership about the patchwork of programs designed to fill those gaps and the concern that no one was seeing the whole landscape. And, while the association had at different times worked to address these issues, it didn’t have a way to both launch these efforts and sustain them.

So last year, with a push from members and donors, CTA decided to create the Colorado Technology Foundation (CTF), a new 501(c)3 organization. CTF will lead the effort to ensure that Colorado’s supply of highly skilled workers for the new economy meets employer demands. Setting up the new nonprofit provides a sustainable way for the association to engage its membership and bring employers together around science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and workforce development programs. Rose Community Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the new foundation during its startup phase, and will provide fiduciary oversight, financial management and other administrative support.

As a nonprofit entity, CTF can work in a way that its parent association could not. “Having the 501(c)3 allows us to engage with companies from a new perspective,” says Alexandra West, director of the Colorado Technology Foundation.

Through its Talent Center, CTF is working on multiple fronts to bring high school, college students and entry-level workers into companies and connect them with leaders in technology. The Career Connections program brings groups of high school students interested in a career in technology to companies to learn about the company, the industry, participate in experiential activities with employee mentors and have a fun experience. CTF is currently partnered with Denver Public Schools on the Career Connections program and looking to expand geographically later in 2015. CTF is also launching a pilot internship program for college juniors and seniors as well as entry-level workers from nontraditional schools this summer. The program will pair interns and mentors through project-based work. Interns participate in professional development training through the program.

Through its initiatives, CTF is laying the groundwork for systemic change across the technology education ecosystem. Early this year CTF announced that it is partnering with The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and Change the Equation (CTEq) to launch the Colorado STEMworks pilot to identify and promote effective STEM education programs. Colorado will be the third state to participate in this initiative. CTF is also partnering in the community on several other initiatives, and you can read more about each of them on their website.

Rose Community Foundation was a natural fit for CTF. “The reputation and vision of the staff is completely in parallel with where we want to be,” says West.

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