BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Last month, the Greenwood Village City Council rescinded its longstanding policy, adopted in 1991, requiring new police officers to possess an associate degree or the equivalent number of credit hours constituting two years of college work “from an accredited institution of higher education.” Also rescinded by the city council was the requirement that an officer possess a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education to qualify to be hired at or promoted to the exempt rank of police commander.
In place of any specific education requirements, candidates for the position of police officer and police commander will be evaluated “based on a combination of education and related work experience.”
In a staff report to the GV City Council, Dustin Varney, GV police chief and Camie Chapman, administrative services director, explained that the change was needed because the city was “continuing to experience recruitment and retention struggles due to a challenging labor market” and had “experienced a near 20 percent increase in turnover in 2019,” as well as a “39 percent decrease in the number of applications received for vacant positions.”
As of January 6, they reported that there were 11 vacancies in GV’s police department, five police officers, four 9-1-1 technicians, one victim assistance coordinator, and one criminalist. They cited a study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum that said, “Fewer people are applying to become police officers, and more people are leaving the profession, often after only a few years on the job.” The same study indicated that two-thirds of responding agencies required only a high school diploma or equivalent for new police officers.
Chief Varney told The Villager that when he started in 1994, there were 500 applications for every police officer position. Recently, he received 94 applications for six vacancies; 48 of those people qualified to take the initial test, and only three met the department’s stringent standards that resulted in their being hired.
A similar reevaluation of job requirements is occurring across many industries, according to Beth Cobert, CEO of Skillful, a non-profit initiative of the Markle Foundation, “dedicated to enabling all Americans—particularly the nearly 70 percent without a four-year college degree—to secure good jobs in a changing economy.”
Cobert, who holds an economics degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University, previously served as Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. At the 2020 Economic Forecast Breakfast sponsored by the South Metro Denver Chamber on Jan. 24, she listed the challenges of today’s job market: 1) 1 in 3 Americans are projected to need new skills by 2030; 2) 80 percent of today’s jobs require basic technology skills; 3) nearly two-thirds of companies cannot find qualified applicants.
With job growth in Colorado at 13 percent, she explained, employers are discovering it makes sense to “hire and train workers based on skills needed for job success,” and “remove unnecessary credentials,” focusing instead on “skills to support workers throughout their careers.”
Cobert said that the implementation of skills-based practices allows employers to: 1) find new pools of qualified talent; 2) create an agile workforce; 3) increase diversity; and 4) improve employee retention and engagement.
She said, “Employers need to recognize aptitude because so many skills needed today weren’t taught to anyone in school.” As an example of recognizing and utilizing the skills and talent of a potential employee, Cobert talked about a sushi chef who was hired as a lens grinder for an optical company who realized that the fine motor skills that he had developed carefully cutting sushi were directly transferable to the delicate work of grinding optical lenses.
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