NewsCovering Colorado


Unique program for creative workforce development secures $1.1 million grant

Posted at 7:19 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 21:19:33-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — In the kitchen of Bird Tree Café along Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs, Josh Skaggs carefully cuts up vegetables.

He is in the first class of a culinary arts and hospitality apprentice program called Culinary Capstone.

“I cook a lot at home. And I wanted to see what that looks like in the bigger picture. At a restaurant, the front end, the back end. And yeah, just get my feet wet.”

A career in the arts is typically associated with being on stage but the creative workforce is much more.

Culinary arts are an example.

Now, this unique new education program in Colorado Springs will foster those jobs.

“To be training a workforce or to be helping to train a workforce, that's going to help give the industry what it needs in that regard is extremely important, said Chef Dustin Archuleta from Bird Tree Café

Archuleta is among a half dozen local chefs supporting the apprentice program.

The students spend four weeks training at the Shovel Ready eatery which is an extension of the City Auditorium revitalization project.

Then they head to work with chefs at other locations in the city.

“Figure out how to be the best by learning through the best. And that's something that I didn't get that advice,” said Archuleta, “You know, I just kind of stumbled through until I ended up learning enough to get to where I am now.”

The paid-to-learn program was started by the Community Cultural Collective.

It is the same group working to restore the historic City Auditorium and turn it into a center for the arts.

“It's a really cool program to be able to get paid to learn and get all these connections and work with different really skilled people,” said Skaggs.

There is a link between the City Auditorium project and the creative workforce education program.

“A space where there’s ongoing learning and workforce development specific to the creative industries,” said Community Cultural Collective, President & CEO, Linda Weise.

The vision for City Auditorium includes events and performances with the addition of extensive educational opportunities.

“Media arts, theater tech arts, early childhood enrichment training, and the Capstone Culinary program.

Some brainstorming with the Pikes Peak Workforce Center leadership initiated the idea to apply for recovery act dollars to get the education programs started.

It paid off with a $1.1 million grant to launch the education piece even before redevelopment construction starts on the auditorium.

The plan is for the education programs to be part of efforts to expand how the City Auditorium is utilized.

“All of these programs will move into this [City Auditorium] space. Will continue to have impact,” said Weise, “This building will be open from 6 a.m. until the speakeasy closes.”

Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.