Opportunity Now News

  • Apr 8, 2024

    South Central BOCES Awarded $2.1 Million in Statewide Opportunity Now Colorado Grant Program Funds


    March 20, 2024


     Denille LePlatt | 719.289.1590 | leplatt-d@sc-boces.org****

    Grant will support career and technical education for construction and advanced manufacturing in 12 school districts in South Central Colorado

    Trinidad, Colo. – On March 20th, Governor Jared Polis announced an Opportunity Now Colorado Grant Program award of over $2.1 million to the South Central BOCES (SC BOCES) to support the expansion of career and technical education programs in construction and advanced manufacturing. SC BOCES serves 12 school districts in south central Colorado, in Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Las Animas and Otero counties. Students across the state of Colorado are seeking educational opportunities that will help them transition straight from the classroom to the workplace. Many of the school districts in the southern part of the state have experienced barriers to offering meaningful career and technical education programs because of cost, student body size, and location. Naming their grant application, “Constructing Colorado’s Future”, SC BOCES will collaborate with multiple partners to provide an innovative solution for career and technical education to serve students across the region.

    The award of the Opportunity Now Phase 2 grant is part of an $85 million grant program catalyzing transformative change for Colorado's workforce. SC BOCES received a Scale grant to scale evidence-based practices in education and workforce development that meet employer needs and increase economic mobility in its service region. 

    The grant will specifically provide funding to support the development of learning hubs throughout the 12 SC BOCES school districts and provide industry certification opportunities to all students. Each hub will specialize in a specific area of the construction trades (e.g., framing, plumbing, electrical). Students will select their area of interest and begin the coursework and requirements for certification. Because some construction trades programs require long internships or apprenticeships to receive licensure, students will be supported post high school graduation by industry partners providing these opportunities.

    According to Denille LePlatt, Executive Director of SC BOCES, “The comprehensive program we’ve designed includes specific curriculum and classes, internships/apprenticeships, and industry certifications which will be supported by dedicated coordinators, individual districts, and partnerships with higher education and industry leaders.” Specialized hubs will be established around the region providing students with access to various careers in the construction and advanced manufacturing fields. “The emphasis is on ensuring that every graduate is workforce-ready, equipped with industry certifications and real-world experience” added LePlatt. SC BOCES hopes to enroll at least 200 students in the construction and advanced manufacturing pathway during the grant period and place 120 students in training-related jobs during the grant period. An important deliverable will be a region-wide data collection and tracking system to measure program outcomes and student success during and after the grant period.

    The Opportunity Now grant award runs through January 2027, with SC BOCES functioning as the local intermediary responsible for the outcome of the Opportunity Now grant. SC BOCES’ centralized staff will streamline the workflow, adding capacity and resources to the development of the construction hub implementation, contracting with technical assistance partners, and monitoring grant finances. The project aims to ensure that every student selecting the construction and advanced manufacturing pathway will graduate with a certification, job experience, and opportunities to move into the workforce or to continue their education after high school.

    Key industry partners on this project include Careers in Construction Colorado (CICC), NUNN Construction of Colorado. CICC is a non-profit organization that brings construction based vocational education into high schools throughout the state of Colorado. CICC’s role on this initiative is to partner with SC BOCES districts to expand current construction offerings and develop regional “hubs” that include high quality curriculum, instruction, and certification pathways for students. Nunn Construction will provide a variety of work based learning opportunities for students in the construction trades program across our region including but not limited to - mentorship, job shadows and exploration, internships, and apprenticeships.

    In addition, The Rural School Innovation Zone, Empower Schools, and the Colorado Education Initiative will serve as technical assistance partners on the project providing curriculum guidance, certification development, educator training, project management and education consulting services to ensure the success of the project. By partnering under the leadership of the SC BOCES, resources can be pooled across the region to ensure that students have access to high quality education, internships and apprenticeships, and certification opportunities. Students, no matter which school they attend, will have the chance to engage with the pathway.

    LePlatt emphasized that supporting rural education goes beyond enabling students to remain within their communities; “It's about cultivating a reservoir of skilled workers  vital for key sectors nationwide. For instance, Colorado boasts a thriving construction sector, evidenced by the 2,766 job openings this summer, surpassing the national average by 51 percent. With projections indicating a requirement for 40,000 new construction workers by 2027 the significance of investing in rural education becomes evident. This partnership exemplifies the mutual advantages, addressing both student ambitions and workforce needs effectively.” said LePlatt.

    The commitment to providing meaningful experiences for students led to a market analysis of industry needs and a student interest analysis. According to LePlatt, this analysis informed the selection of construction and advanced manufacturing as student pathways. Colorado as a whole is experiencing a shortage in trained construction and manufacturing workers. “SC BOCES aims to address some of the labor shortage in these two areas by ensuring students in the pathway leave with certifications, strong internship opportunities, and the confidence to be work-force ready when they graduate.” added LePlatt. The Opportunity Now grant award begins in April 2024 and runs through January 2027. 

    More About Opportunity Now

    The Opportunity Now Colorado Grant Program is an ongoing initiative by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) for the State of Colorado, designed to catalyze industry and education collaboration to implement and scale talent development projects across the state of Colorado. Over the course of three rounds, Opportunity Now seeks to provide $85 million in funding to catalyze innovation for Colorado’s workforce. Scale grants provide grants to evidenced based programs that are ready to grow significantly to meet industry needs.

    About South Central BOCES The South Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is a collaborative serving 12 member school districts spanning a vast 10,000 square mile region in rural Southern Colorado. Our mission is to empower every student within our member districts to thrive academically, socially, and personally. Through collective efforts, we prioritize innovation, vitality, and effectiveness in education to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all learners.  South Central BOCES offers a spectrum of services including regional special education administration, professional learning opportunities, alternative licensure programs, and academic supports designed to foster growth and success for educators and students alike. Driven by a commitment to collaboration and continuous improvement, South Central BOCES strives to be a catalyst for positive change in education.