Young apprentice in vocational training working on a turning machine in the industry.

Board proposes grant to support Colorado River BOCES

October 14, 2022

Garfield County is supporting the Colorado River Board of Cooperative Education Services’ (BOCES) efforts to provide needed job skills for students throughout the area. The Board of County Commissioners proposed a $100,000 grant to be decided in the 2023 budget process to BOCES to help bring its educational goals to fruition, noting that the funding is an investment in local “economic development.”

Dr. Ken Haptonstall, BOCES executive director, told the Board of County Commissioners that BOCES serves local school districts by supporting special education, alternative licensure, career and technical education (CTE), professional development, and more. He added that the construction, cybersecurity, and health care fields are just a few that are seeking employees locally, and that taking part in BOCES offerings is a great way for students to be prepared for these careers.

“Not all our kids are going off to college,” Haptonstall said. “I have plenty of friends who graduated from Rifle High School and currently own really nice homes because they are plumbers and electricians, and they do a lot of great work. Unfortunately, school systems have not really supported that path. We have gone away from that.”

He added that BOCES is working with school districts from Aspen to De Beque, municipalities from Carbondale to Rifle, and has more than 100 industry supporters in the region.

“They understand workforce development is key to making our communities thrive,” Haptonstall said. “We believe that the kids graduating from these schools are very capable of doing the work.”

BOCES is providing local opportunities to acquire hands-on job skills in the building of tiny homes and other construction projects, as well as chances to hone math skills (Pathway2Careers), and access to 65 online CTE classes. These options help students who may not be attending college and would like to have a more direct path to their chosen careers.

BOCES is currently fundraising with a goal of raising $3 million in grant funding by March 2023, to help expand programming in local schools, including CTE offerings at Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, and to hire a CTE coach to assist students. BOCES’ long-term goal is to realize an Educational Pathways to Innovative Careers (EPIC) “mothership” in the Rifle to Silt area, and to expand programming in all local high schools, among other educational aspirations.

“We need very high-skilled workers to do the jobs out there and we’re not coming close right now,” Haptonstall added.

The board reiterated its support for BOCES’ ambitions and stressed the need for more employment options for students looking to make their mark in the world.

“As an educator, I’ve always been a proponent of vocational education and I’ve always told the kids that there are other options beside college,” said Commissioner Mike Samson. “You have to get out there and find that niche, whether it’s as a plumber, electrician, or a game warden. College is not for everyone, and there are technical schools and trades, and in today’s world, the trades workers are making a very good living.”