Gov. Hickenlooper signs mobile learning lab bill in Frisco
Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Frisco yesterday to sign a bill that would help provide on-site training for local businesses. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, would allow state funds to be granted to community colleges for mobile learning labs, a relatively new concept featuring small classrooms on wheels.
“It’s a very hands-on, come-to-the-employer kind of strategy,” Hamner said. “This bill will help incentivize more of these mobile labs to purchase equipment they might need on the job.”
Two additional sponsors of the bill, Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, also attended Wednesday’s signing at Elevate CoSpace. The bill is one of nine workforce development bills sponsored by House Democrats that passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support, with seven currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
“Summit County is the entrepreneurial hub of rural Colorado. You don’t see this in many places outside of Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins,” Hickenlooper said. “We try to work really hard in making Colorado a destination for startups. If you can attract talent, and give them places they can work out of, or be inspired, that’s where you can really accelerate job creation.”
As it stands, the bill will allow existing funds for the Colorado Existing Industry Training Program to be granted to mobile learning labs across the state.
Colorado Mountain College’s interpretation of the concept takes the form of a giant trailer, filled with equipment that travels from campus to campus through the Rockies.
“It’s sort of like a giant horse trailer. It’s all fitted inside with laptops, instructional material, and it even has a projector screen for PowerPoints,” said Rachel Pokrandt, dean of CMC’s Rifle Campus. “We load up the trailer and bring it all over. We can accommodate up to 12 students doing deskwork and more hands-on lab activities.”
Rifle’s mobile learning lab is currently offering courses in electrical engineering out of Dillon for workers at Climax Mine. The Rifle lab is focused on both renewable and nonrenewable energy, but five other campuses, including Fort Collins, Red Rocks and Pueblo, have their own mobile learning labs geared toward wind energy, water chemistry and other focus areas.
Fred Menzer, vice president of Colorado operations for Climax Mine, said the company started using the mobile lab last year, and planned to enroll several new employees in the program this year. Menzer said that with the lack of available workers trained in electrical engineering in the area, Climax Mine decided to train their own workers to make up for the skill shortage.
“We’ve taken basic solar installer certificate around our college district, where students are looking for more hands-on learning,” Pokrandt said. “We’ve also partnered with various energy companies to offer on-site training. It’s everything from learning to use excel better to more technical skills that are in tune with our program.”
CMC bought the mobile classroom two years ago, with a federal grant from the Trade Adjustment Assistance reinvestment act for training workers. Companies pay for the classes and training which CMC brings to their doorstep.
“We’re lucky to have the piece of equipment, that’s for sure,” Pokrandt said.
The perfect location
Rep. Hamner managed to bring the signing close to home at Elevate CoSpace, a co-working site in Frisco that opened last year. The business, which offers office space for locals and visitors to work and conduct conferences, hoped to use the opportunities provided by the legislation to provide more training opportunities.
“This is aligned exactly with our mission; we’re very honored to host this bill signing,” said Amy Kemp, co-founder of Elevate CoSpace.“We’ve been able to create this community of job seekers, business owners and entrepreneurs. It would potentially impact what we do here.”
“This is to me a really important part of that, finding ways to promote businesses like Elevate and support employees in a way that they can continue their education on the job,” Hamner added.
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