Len Barerra, a graduate of Front Range Community College (FRCC), joined Governor Jared Polis for a press conference last week announcing a new executive order that encourages the state to consider skills and experiences when hiring employees in addition to education credentials. 

The event took place on Boulder’s Google campus, which will invest $30 million to expand data jobs across the state, officials announced. During his remarks, Governor Polis said the move to skills-based hiring will remove unnecessary barriers like education requirements that prevent Coloradans from landing high-paying, in-demand jobs.  

“Since I became Governor, we’ve been moving forward with this, but it’s been more of an alternative,” Gov. Polis said. “We now want to do it on equal footing to show that we have a real process for outreach on all of our jobs. Experience, skills, degrees—these are interchangeable to demonstrate your credentialing and ability to do the job.”  

Barerra, who earned an associate degree in information technology (IT), said skills-based hiring will directly support Coloradans like her. As a first-generation college student, she joined FRCC’s IT department to help pay for classes and was quickly promoted to the lead student technician. The job gave her hands-on experience that complemented her studies and inspired her to work toward her bachelor’s degree in engineering. In 2019, she transferred to CU Boulder to but had to pause her studies when her daughter’s daycare center shut down during the pandemic.   

Thankfully, my experience at Front Range, both as an employee and student, prepared me well to find employment.
- Len Barerra, Front Range Community College graduate

“Thankfully, my experience at Front Range, both as an employee and student, prepared me well to find employment,” said Barerra, who leveraged her skills in troubleshooting and customer service to find a full-time IT job. “But other community college completers aren’t so lucky. Many others displaced during the pandemic cannot even apply for jobs that pay a living wage and that they have the skills for just because they lack a bachelor’s degree. “  

The move to skills-based hiring not only helps organizations find employees who are uniquely suited for roles, it also invites a larger candidate pool to apply, Barerra said. Over time, more equitable practices will help firms recruit and retain diverse talent. Basing job descriptions in specific competencies will also make the hiring process more transparent for employers and employees, Barrera said.  

“Skills-based hiring is so important,” she said. “It ensures our hard-earned knowledge and skills don’t go to waste, and that we can continue to contribute the state we love and provide for our families.”