Colorado offers long-term unemployed a new link to training, jobs

Photo: Ellen Golombek, Colo. Dep't of Labor
Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, announces a new program to help the state's long-term unemployed in a press conference at the state Capitol on January 8, 2015.

By most measures, Colorado's economy is doing well. Unemployment is down, house prices are up, and people are flocking to the state.

But according to numbers from the federal Department of Labor, last year there were approximately 47,200 Coloradans who'd been out of work for six months or longer. And that figure only counts people who say they're still actively looking for a job.

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the state will be making a new effort to help connect those long-term unemployed with jobs.

The program puts $3 million of federal money toward increased services at Workforce centers around the state, aimed specifically at helping the long term unemployed improve their job hunting skills and train for new positions.

"If a long-term unemployed job seeker doesn't have up-to-date and transferable or marketable skills, our workforce center specialists will guide that individual to retraining opportunities," said Ellen Golombek, head of Colorado's Department of Labor. "The key message today to struggling job seekers is that, with some help, they can get back in the game."

In announcing the program Thursday, the governor reflected back on a period of joblessness earlier in his own life.

"It changes how you relate with your family and your friends. It changes what you see in the mirror: some of the old confidence and things you took for granted isn’t the same," Hickenlooper said.

As part of this push, Colorado is also trying to get employers to commit to hiring more people who’ve been out of work for six months or more. At a new website, employers can pledge to review their hiring practices to make sure they aren't weighted against job candidates without a recent work history. The site will also allow job seekers to registered to receive workforce center aid.

The state is spending $100,000 on the website.