The initiative will strategically tackle challenges that directly impact our employees including our talent pool, workforce housing, childcare capacity, and the business environment, said Barber Nichols CEO Matt Malone.
The Arvada Chamber of Commerce received clear feedback from their employer community: they struggle to find talent. Even when they do find candidates, the lack of aligned skills is a cause for concern. Education and training providers also expressed challenges in engaging employers and building the necessary relationships to support their clients.
The talent system is disconnected, and the Arvada Chamber recognized that it cannot be viewed as a mere collection of individual components. Instead, they adopted a systems approach to address the underlying causes of the employer community’s most pressing challenges. Doing so allowed them to identify potential areas of leverage for change, anticipate unintended consequences, and ultimately develop more effective and sustainable solutions.
In 2017, the Arvada Chamber embarked on the implementation of Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) with a focus on STEM/Manufacturing, Construction/Trades, Professional Services, and Healthcare. By embracing TPM strategies, the employer collaboratives (i.e., the employers working together to address their shared pain points) quickly recognized significant gaps between their needs and the expectations of talent suppliers.
Just as the collaborative achieved significant progress identifying trends for where they got talent and establishing strong supplier relationships, the unexpected arrival of COVID-19 disrupted their efforts. The pandemic brought about a shift in the employers’ talent concerns, and consequently, their focus and energy stalled. What remained consistent was the use of the TPM framework. The collaborative uncovered substantial flaws in the local talent system and its sustainability. This forced change in direction allowed the Arvada Chamber and the employers to assume the roles of convener and catalyst, aiming to build high-performing and sustainable talent pipelines that benefit students, workers, employers, and providers.
The Opportunity Ahead
In 2022, the Arvada Chamber of Commerce introduced B.O.L.D. (Big Opportunities For Leaders To Deliver) 2026, a strategic initiative to ensure sustainable funding to tackle the most significant economic challenges and provide a clear direction for the organization and community. B.O.L.D. 2026 spans a five-year period and addresses challenges through proactive and well-conceived strategies, driven by a collaborative
partnership between the private and public sectors.
First, a feasibility study involving interviews with approximately 50 business and community leaders revealed (unsurprisingly) that talent was a key concern. However, the study also exposed the profound impact of housing and childcare on businesses’ ability to attract and retain talent. In response to the study’s findings, the Arvada Chamber, in consultation with Power10, developed a comprehensive strategy prioritizing investment. By utilizing TPM’s data-informed approach to identify and articulate the challenges, and by setting specific and measurable goals, the Chamber successfully engaged 41 investors across public-private partners. The total investment reached nearly $3 million, equivalent to $600,000 per year over the course of the five-year initiative.
Bringing A Vision to Life
With sustainable funding secured, the Arvada Chamber and its partners have been able to move quickly and effectively to hire three additional employees and increase programming and resources from the Chamber.
Notable accomplishments to date center around two goals:
1. Provide tools and resources for businesses to improve how they engage with the talent system
Work-Based Learning Toolkits: The Arvada Chamber, in partnership with an action team of education, business, and nonprofit partners, created a series of Work-Based Learning (WBL) Toolkits to help guide businesses through the terminology, data, roles, benefits, and action steps of WBL.
Work-Based Learning Incentive Program: In May 2022, the Colorado State Legislature passed Senate Bill 22-140, creating the Work-Based Learning Incentive Program (WBLIP). The goal of the $3 million program is to increase and expand the number of WBL opportunities available to youth and adults across Colorado by providing monetary incentives to employers to create new or enhance existing WBL programs. WBLIP will reimburse employers up to $10,000 for developing and implementing WBL activities through May 2024. The Arvada Chamber serves as an intermediary for this program.
Career Coach By Lightcast: The Arvada Chamber was proud to launch this new public tool for employers and job seekers to better understand labor market data, education programs, and skills required. This tool will only support education pathways that are vetted by and meet quality expectations of the employer community, as prescribed by the TPM methodology.
2. Improve coordination of people and communication
Talent KAPS Council: Driven by the Arvada Chamber’s strategic goals, the Talent KAPS (Kick-Ass Problem Solvers) Council is a group of talent suppliers and partners who have agreed to establish and adopt shared solutions to grow talent.
Talent Pipeline Management & Sector Partnerships: Coloradans have looked to two frameworks to guide them in prioritizing industry leadership. Next Gen Sector Partnership provides a starting place for convening key stakeholders to address workforce challenges and TPM provides the framework to implement talent system improvements. The Arvada Chamber has worked diligently to merge the two frameworks and are re-engaging an expanded group of businesses to further roll out TPM in the region.
Career Hubs: In partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools, the Arvada Chamber is supporting the roll out of 20 High School Career Hubs over the next five years. The pilot phase is complete and in fall 2023, four Hubs will be launched. A Career Hub is a physical location inside of Jeffco high schools dedicated to increasing career awareness, exploration, and preparation by increasing student access to career pathway information and WBL opportunities.
Seamless WBL: This tool was initially invested in by the Arvada Chamber to provide a singular platform where employers and talent suppliers could live in one shared database. The intent of this platform is to improve sustainability as people transition from their roles, increase communication, and track engagement between employers and suppliers.
From the outset, one of the significant hurdles the Arvada Chamber encountered was the scarcity of resources available to allocate to talent initiatives. However, by taking a step back, actively seeking feedback, and meticulously designing an informed and systematic plan, they successfully overcame the daily challenges that hindered their ability to execute effective talent strategies. The Arvada Chamber has already seen a significant increase in engagement with well over 200 public and private partners stepping into leadership roles for B.O.L.D. 2026. Matt Malone, CEO of Barber Nichols shared, “Barber-Nichols joined the initiative to actively engage in the continued growth and prosperity for the local community in which we live and work, Arvada. The initiative will strategically tackle challenges that directly impact our employees including our talent pool, workforce housing, childcare capacity, and the business environment.
We are excited to be a leading benchmark to prototype ideas!”
The enthusiasm shared for this initiative and improving the talent system is seen in the results as more than 100 employers have signed-up to support WBL activities, four Career Hubs have launched at high schools, and two employer collaboratives have started the process of improving their talent pipelines. While the work is just beginning, the most substantial impact has been the clarity that was created by providing employers and talent providers the platform to work together. The key to success for B.O.L.D. will be the collective effort of all stakeholders in the talent system.
A board member of the Arvada Chamber, during the early stages of B.O.L.D. 2026, aptly remarked, “If not us, then who?” This realization has taught the Arvada Chamber that chambers, including theirs, hold a unique position to assume a substantial leadership role in the talent system of their community, as well as many others. As Arvada Chamber President and CEO Kami Welch stated. “We firmly believe that the B.O.L.D. initiative is not only necessary but also timely, aligning perfectly with the current needs and demands of our business community.”