DENVER — First lady Jill Biden visited Denver on Monday to highlight President Joe Biden's economic policies.
On Monday morning, Biden joined Gov. Jared Polis at the Colorado State Capitol "to highlight how state officials are prioritizing investments in community colleges and workforce training programs," according to her office.
In a short speech to a group of bipartisan state legislators, she touted her husband's administration's efforts to steer more graduating high schoolers towards career training programs and called Colorado a model for investment in community colleges and skilled trades.
"As technology changes, so many industries, these kinds of learning paths are more important than ever," the first lady said.
Biden said the president's administration is creating millions of jobs in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing.
"These positions pay well, and many of them require associate's degrees, certificates, registered apprenticeships, or other hands on instruction, not four years of college," she said. "Still, a lot of high school students don't necessarily know how to get from earning their diplomas, right, earning their high school diplomas to earning a living."
Biden promised the president will make community colleges and career-connected learning a priority in his 2024 budget proposal.
"It's the future of our workforce, how we grow our economy," she said. "As Joe likes to say, from the bottom up and the middle out. And these aren't red or blue ideas. You guys know these are American ideas."
Introducing the first lady, Polis said Colorado has two job openings for every unemployed Coloradan.
"We also need to make sure that the skills of those who are unemployed or looking for work can match the needs of the workforce so they can earn they can earn a good living and work good jobs, and our economy can thrive," Polis said.
Among the successes the governor touted in his speech is the Care Forward Colorado program, which used federal pandemic relief funding to provide grants for free training for people looking to work in heath care.
In the crowd listening to that speech was Karlie Asman, an EMT and firefighter for Franktown Fire. Asman took advantage of that Care Forward Colorado program to get her certification.
Asman graduated the University of Wyoming with a degree in biology. When she returned to Colorado, she had planned to pursue medical school, but during the pandemic, volunteer opportunities weren't available.
Without the grant funding, she would have struggled, she said.
"It was a massive blessing for me because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do," she said. "I couldn’t afford rent here so I’m living with my parents, but I couldn’t afford rent, I couldn’t afford food, I couldn’t afford my car payment because I was fresh out of college I didn’t have a job yet.”
“What’s holding people back right now is a lot of times … that money factor, and I can’t afford to go to school because I have to put food on my table, I have to provide for my family, whatever it may be, and so what’s holding people back is money, and this grant has offered immense help to so many people,” she said.
During a discussion with Biden at the event, a bipartisan group of lawmakers discussed efforts to drive more students into workforce training. State lawmakers are currently considering two bills on the topic. One would provide a $1,500 scholarship to any student who graduates high school and pursues educational training in a high demand career. Another would direct institutions across the state to administer short term credential programs for in-demand careers.
Biden arrived in Colorado on Sunday evening. She also planned visits to Michigan, Maine and Vermont. Her trip to Michigan was postponed to a later date after the aircraft issues forced her return to Denver later Monday morning.
"During the visits, the First Lady will highlight how career-connected learning and workforce training programs are central to the Biden Education Pathway, and the importance of investing in these programs that are preparing high school and community college students for jobs created by the President’s Investing in America agenda," her office said in a news release.
Biden traveled to Colorado after taking in the NCAA women's basketball national championship in Dallas on Sunday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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