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Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Takes on Workforce Development, Hires Talent Pipeline Director

DENVER—The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is one of the first chambers in the nation to pilot a program to improve educational and employment outcomes for “opportunity youth”—focusing on young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who are disconnected from school and/or work. The program will create a pipeline of skilled workers among opportunity youth for the jobs that will be in demand in the future.

The Chamber has hired Lorena Marquez Zimmer as director of talent pipeline, serving as a liaison between business and those serving opportunity youth and forming the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative. The Chamber has received grants from Rose Community Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Daniels Fund, Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Colorado to support this work. The Chamber is one of four chambers selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to develop a program to reduce youth unemployment.

“It is imperative to build a pipeline of skilled youth who will bring new energy and expertise to key industries that are facing workforce shortages,” Zimmer said. “I’m thrilled to see the business community take an active role in this arena and to make connections for these youth to help them build the skills they need to start their career, make key connections with employers and be able to support themselves and their families.”

Zimmer has worked for nearly 20 years in public health, most recently as a project manager for the Spark Policy Institute, including serving as project lead on the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative.

The Chamber is also working with more than 20 community partners, including the Center for Work Education and Employment, Colorado Youth for a Change, Community College of Denver, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Denver Public Schools (Emily Griffith GED+, Summit and P.U.S.H. Academy), Emily Griffith Technical College, Goodwill Industries of Denver, Mile High United Way, Mile High Youth Corps, the state of Colorado, WorkLife Partnership and Zero Dropouts.

“Our economy depends on us all rolling up our sleeves and working together to ensure that our youth are prepared to enter the workforce—and that they’ll have great jobs waiting for them,” said Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough. “We know that in just five short years 74 percent of our workforce will need post-secondary education. Today, only 18 percent of on time high school grads will go straight to college, earn a credential and immediately enter the workforce. Those numbers don’t add up, so we know we need new strategies like this for filling our workforce gaps.”

In addition to forming the Denver Youth Opportunity Initiative, the Chamber is working closely with its members, educators and workforce development providers to create new connections and serve as a convener on workforce issues in Colorado.

About the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
For nearly 150 years, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been a leading voice for Colorado’s business community. With a membership that spans the state and includes 3,000 businesses and their 300,000 employees, the Chamber is an effective advocate for small and large businesses. For more information, go to denverchamber.org.