Talent 2.0 Redefined — Bringing and Keeping Talent in Northern Colorado

September 29, 2021

For more information about Talent 2.0 and its ongoing efforts, click here.

Talent 2.0 Redefined — Bringing and Keeping Talent in Northern Colorado

Revisiting regional workforce efforts, the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent goals

Throughout the past decade, regional leaders and businesses have collaboratively worked together to establish a healthy workforce and economy in Northern Colorado. By tackling the development, maintenance and accessibility of talent within the community head-on — along with addressing societal and economic inequities — the goal of Talent 2.0 committee members is to make Northern Colorado a desirable place to work, live and play.

Simply put, Talent 2.0 is an organization that prioritizes regional workforce strategy. The group discusses prominent workforce-related topics that are specific to Northern Colorado communities; for example, how to connect employers with qualified candidates, or what local legislation is needed to attract diverse working populations.

By amplifying voices from government, nonprofit and business communities, Talent 2.0 provides a platform for collectively addressing regional challenges through unified partnerships and relationships.

Redefining Talent 2.0 Efforts

Starting in 2014, the City of Fort Collins sponsored analyzing the employment landscape within the community through numbers and data. In 2016, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce — and eventually, Talent 2.0 — doubled down efforts to transition analysis of data and information to actionable implementation.

Enter, the formation of the Talent 2.0 team, including representatives from the following organizations:

  • Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
  • City of Fort Collins Economic Health Department
  • City of Loveland Economic Development Department
  • Larimer County Economic Development Department
  • Larimer County Workforce Center
  • Loveland Chamber of Commerce
  • Northern Colorado Economic Alliance
  • United Way of Larimer County

The strategic vision for Talent 2.0 committee members is: “A dynamic labor market with a strong talent pipeline that supports employers’ current future needs and provides residents with good career options and opportunities to improve their skills.”

To fulfill the comprehensive goal of establishing a strong and diverse regional economy, representatives identified the need to increase employer access to qualified candidates; improve the alignment of education and workforce resources to the business community and local talent pool; and remove structural and systemic issues that serve as barriers to a secure talent pipeline.

“What was startling for many of us was how many people in critical jobs were in retirement age, and the pipeline to replace them was less than adequate,” said Jacob Castillo, Director of Economic and Workforce Development for Larimer County and Talent 2.0 Steering Committee Member. “This is one example of how data helped us understand hidden and potential challenges within the community.”

Deirdre Sullivan, Steering Committee Member of Talent 2.0 and CEO/President of United Way of Larimer County, recently joined the group to bring the nonprofit community’s voice to the table for addressing workforce needs.

“We have a unique window of opportunity now with additional recovery funds and we must apply them to economic mobility in our community,” she said.

Impacts of COVID-19

Talent 2.0 steering committee members said the COVID-19 pandemic had a notable impact on the Northern Colorado community and workforce. Areas of need that had already been established by the group became magnified in the face of the pandemic — such as workforce issues related to childcare, housing and transportation.

“Acknowledging common systemic issues and an established strategic plan before the pandemic put us in a good position, as the pandemic exacerbated some of our local issues,” Castillo said. “Now, our focus is on response and recovery of new issues that came to light. Because relationships and partnerships were built through Talent 2.0 prior to the pandemic, we’re in a better place now to implement strategies that help our community recover quicker.”

The pandemic forced the workforce to change — in some ways positive, and others negative. One positive includes the change in culture prioritization, as many businesses became more lenient of remote work and understanding of contrasting family schedules. A negative includes the decrease in labor force participation for women and the Latinx community.

“We saw sizable job losses for women and people of color in various sectors,” Castillo said. “While some of those jobs have bounced back, we’re still down net thousands of jobs in Northern Colorado. People living on economic margins face very real crises.”

According to Sullivan, there is a collaboration between philanthropic dollars and government recovery funds to address these pandemic-heightened issues. Other ongoing efforts by Talent 2.0 — such as work-based learning opportunities for young students and resources for businesses to retain their employees — also continue to be in the works.

“While there is still a lot of economic need and people who have been hurt by the pandemic, there have been some positive elements, such as people seeking other opportunities that allow for upward mobility and wealth generation,” Castillo said. “This leads to economic inclusion in our region.”

Forward-Looking Thoughts

The efforts of Talent 2.0 are appreciated and supported by local businesses like Columbine Health Systems, which serves residents in Windsor, Loveland and Fort Collins.

“Before, businesses like ours had to figure out staffing and recruitment on our own,” said Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems Director for the long-term care organization. “With assistance from Talent 2.0, resources are openly available and easily accessible.”

Although Talent 2.0 initially focused on the Fort Collins-Loveland Metropolitan Statistical Area, the group has expanded to include the Greeley MSA. Note: what is now called the Fort Collins MSA covers all of Larimer County while the Greeley MSA includes all of Weld County.

“We’re excited to make this a regional endeavor and address the entire Northern Colorado labor pool,” Castillo said. “By widening the aperture of our lens, building on existing partnerships and bringing new voices to the team, we can understand workforce dynamics better and put together strategies in a different way that allow us to implement new solutions.”

The end goal: positive change for all who work and live in Northern Colorado.

“We want families who live here to choose the food they eat, the town they live in and the jobs that allow them to do that, instead of having to piece resources together and stay in an ongoing place of financial need,” Sullivan said.

Despite many accomplishments before the pandemic, Talent 2.0 continues to put the region’s business community first — employers, employees and their diverse families.

“We have a responsibility to build our community back better than it was before,” Castillo included. “The pandemic shined a glaring light on some of the economic inequities based on systemic factors in our community and proved there is plenty of room for improvement for Northern Colorado to do more work.”

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