Metro Denver WIRED Initiative
At a time in late 2005 when local Workforce Investment Boards were in the initial stages of discussing the formation of a single regional workforce board to address more efficiently the needs of regional businesses and job seekers, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation released its landmark Toward a More Competitive Colorado report. This in-depth analysis of the region’s industry clusters showed serious challenges to our region’s competitive position if we failed to address our low high school graduation rates, declining support for higher education, and mismatches in industry demand versus local production of a skilled workforce to meet those local demands.
The Metro Denver Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) Initiative was proposed to address our region’s competitiveness challenges, including what’s widely known as the Colorado Paradox – the fact that we have one of the nation’s most highly educated workforce but low high school graduation rates. Colorado’s solution in the past was to import talent from other states and countries to meet industry demand, but WIRED’s solution was to "grow our own."
To this end, the Metro Denver WIRED Initiative was launched in 2006 with a four-year $15 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Labor. While the Metro Denver WIRED Initiative was originally one of 13 WIRED grant recipients in the nation, the U.S. Department of Labor eventually invested in a total of 39 WIRED regions through these competitive grants (see www.doleta.gov/wired).
WIRED was a collaborative partnership between industry, workforce, education and economic development in the nine-county Metro Denver Region (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld) designed to align workforce, economic development, and education in support of the regional economy.
The mission for WIRED was to generate transformational and sustainable changes in the local education, economic development and workforce systems to enhance the region’s competitiveness, thereby creating a homegrown skilled workforce.
WIRED identified the region’s fastest growing industries that offer some of the highest wages as aerospace, bioscience, energy and information technology. To meet the demand, WIRED looked to further develop a labor force skilled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through a series of competitive local “JumpStart”, Workforce Innovation and Sustainability grants.
The Metro Denver WIRED Initiative concluded in January 2010. Details of the initiative and its impacts are summarized in the WIRED Final Report.