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Denver Construction Career Pilot Program Lifts Off with New Peña Blvd Widening Contract

$94 million design/construction services contract is first of many to require contractor to utilize apprentices

Denver’s unprecedented level of public construction investments is now taking shape to provide new employment and career opportunities for several targeted populations including veterans, Colorado Works (TANF) program recipients, those exiting the foster care system, and people who have experienced homelessness.

A $94 million Peña Blvd. construction contract, approved by Denver City Council last night, is the first of many major projects to require the hiring of apprentices and other workforce requirements under Denver Economic Development & Opportunity’s new construction career pilot program. Developed over the past year, the program is designed to provide access to opportunity to Denver residents while building the talent pipeline to address labor shortages facing the local construction industry.

“This is a key step, as a city, in providing access to economic mobility for Denver residents that need it most,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “The construction career pilot will close gaps in equity and provide new economic opportunities for residents to build a future, and we’re thrilled to leverage our public investments to create jobs, careers and real opportunities for our residents.”

For the Peña Blvd project, the newly approved contract with Interstate Highway Construction, Inc. requires the firm to ensure that 15% of all construction hours are performed by apprentices. Of those apprenticeship hours, 25% of the hours must be completed by targeted populations that include veterans, Colorado Works (TANF) program recipients, those exiting the foster care system, and people who have experienced homelessness. Additionally, 25% of the apprenticeship hours must be completed by first-year apprentices in registered apprenticeship programs.

DEDO’s program will focus on an estimated 15 major projects over the next three years, including the Colorado Convention Center expansion, key National Western Center facilities, significant construction at Denver International Airport, and select Elevate Denver Bond Program projects including Washington St. reconstruction, Denver Police Station District 5, Denver Central Library renovations, Green Valley Ranch pool, and 56th Ave. roadway improvements. The identified projects total more than $900 million in value and will create opportunities across several skilled trades.

The pilot program also requires contractors of selected projects to develop targeted outreach, marketing and training plans for filling positions. Target areas include disadvantaged neighborhoods, based on periodically updated poverty, education and unemployment rates, as well as targeted populations that include veterans, Colorado Works (TANF) program recipients, those exiting the foster care system, and people who have experienced homelessness.

To assist with meeting the pilot’s new workforce development requirements, Denver is connecting contractors with the WORKNOW workforce development platform. Facilitated by Colorado Resource (CORE) Partners Alliance, WORKNOW provides jobseekers and current workers with integrated resources including supportive services, industry job training, connections to open positions and community resources. The City and County of Denver is one of several key funders supporting WORKNOW.

The pilot’s initial three-year window and focus on high-opportunity projects will allow the City to evaluate and develop a longer-term set of workforce expectations informed by experience.

“This is a win-win for residents seeking meaningful careers, and for employers to develop the talent needed to succeed on future projects,” said DEDO Executive Director Eric Hiraga. “Our pilot program represents a new chapter in Denver’s approach to providing equity for our workforce by leveraging capital improvements to provide additional community benefits beyond just building infrastructure.”

Denver joins a small number of cities across the nation that are leveraging public construction projects to connect residents to careers and economic mobility. Other cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, New Orleans, Seattle and Milwaukee.

WORKNOW offers weekly information sessions for individuals seeking to learn more about construction career opportunities. To learn more, visit www.work-now.org.