Press conference person speaking in front of a podium.

(Photo: Laylonni Jaramillo, a Front Range Community College graduate, and Care Forward Colorado participant speaks at the press conference.)

Governor Jared Polis and members of the Colorado General Assembly unveiled legislation that would dedicate $38.6 million to expand zero-cost training programs at Colorado Community College System (CCCS) colleges, area district colleges, and technical colleges.  

Through House Bill 23-1246, the state would cover tuition, fees, and materials for short-term, in-demand programs, including nursing, early childhood education, and firefighting, among others. The bill is sponsored by Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie, Sens. Janet Buckner and Perry Will, and Rep. Rose Pugliese.  

The legislation is part of the Polis administration’s goal to strengthen workforce development across the state. Colorado currently has two job openings for every available worker, resulting in significant shortages in key areas, according to the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. 

Students standing with Colorado governor Jared Polis

Governor Jared Polis and Speaker Julie McCluskie pose with CCCS students who graduated under the state’s Care Forward Colorado program.

“There’s more we need to do to help build homegrown talent and give them the skills they need to succeed,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “Today’s package really opens the door for more opportunities for Coloradans to pursue in-demand jobs.”  

If passed, the program would launch later this summer in time for the Fall 2023 semester. The state hopes to train 20,000 students over the coming years. 

“Our bill boosts our workforce, helps build positions in critical industries, and gets more Coloradans on the path to the profession of their dreams, and it will help all of us see our communities grow and thrive,” said Speaker McCluskie.  

The bill also includes a $5 million appropriation to CCCS to establish two new associate degree nursing programs to increase training capacity in targeted regions of the state and help Colorado’s healthcare industry meet critical workforce needs.  

“So many high-paying jobs do not require a four-year degree,” said CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia, noting certified nursing assisting, law enforcement, and construction as examples. “It’s not only about providing financial resources, but also raising awareness of the high-demand jobs where people can make good wages and do it with a credential that only takes one to two years to earn.”   


It’s not only about providing financial resources, but also raising awareness of the high-demand jobs where people can make good wages and do it with a credential that only takes one to two years to earn.”  – CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia


The legislation builds on the success of the Care Forward Colorado program, which covers training costs for entry-level healthcare positions. To date, more than 1,000 CCCS students have successfully completed a Care Forward Colorado program with another cohort of 1,000 currently enrolled.   

Laylonni Jaramillo, who recently graduated from Front Range Community College, was one of the first students to benefit from the Care Forward Colorado program. During the press conference, Jaramillo said she was inspired to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) after watching professionals treat her late grandmother last winter. 

“About a month into the program, I found out about Care Forward Colorado and how easy it was to apply. It was almost hard to believe it was real, and it was a true blessing,” Jaramillo said of the financial assistance. “I am excited to be starting a new job next month as an EMT with American Medical Response, which means I will finally be able to give support and care to people when they need it most.”  

The bill will be introduced in the Colorado House. For updates on the bill, visit the Colorado General Assembly website.