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Hickenlooper seeks help for long-term jobless

Gov. John Hickenlooper describes his workforce initiative that he says will increase hiring of the long-term unemployed in a news conference in the Capitol, in Denver on Thursday.

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration wants to help people who have been unemployed at least 26 weeks find jobs with a $3 million initiative aimed at connecting them with interested employers.

Hickenlooper on Thursday announced the plan, which will utilize a new website to connect employers with workers. The $3 million comes from the federal government, with the state kicking in $100,000 for the website.

The federal funding will go for job or interview training, counseling and internships for the long-term unemployed.

According to the state Department of Labor and Employment, nearly 50,000 people in Colorado have been unemployed for at least 26 weeks, which is defined as long-term unemployment.

“It does change the way you go about your day. It changes how you relate with your family, your friends,” Hickenlooper said. “It changes what you see in the mirror, some of the old confidence and things you took for granted isn’t the same.”

Overall, the job outlook for the state has improved. Colorado’s unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.

But state officials say there is a stigma associated with being out of work long term, presenting a challenge for job seekers. In some cases, the jobs that they once held no longer exist or they have been unable to keep up with the skills they need in their field, said Ellen Golombek, the executive director of the state labor department.

“Many of these long-term unemployed are highly qualified. Their skills just don’t match the jobs that are currently open,” Golombek said.

Participating in the initiative is voluntary for employers. But state officials say they’ll have an incentive to hire workers who just need training to brush up on their skills.

“We have a pool of employers who are constantly willing to step up, sometimes just because it’s the right thing to do,” said Fiona Arnold, the executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

“In this case, it’s because it’s not only the right thing to do, but they’re hurting for employees, too.”

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