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Mike Van Meter, who trained to become a preschool substitute teacher, takes notes during his student observation at the Garfield Montessori School in Denver. He was part of the first cohort of older adults training for a second career after retirement through the Early Childhood Service Corps. The program is taught by the University of Colorado, Denver, and graduates receive an early childhood teacher certification. (Courtesy of the Early Childhood Service Corps.)

As far as pandemic pivots go, Lisa Armao’s made a lot of sense. Her goal to set up an intergenerational preschool that paired older adults with mild dementia and preschoolers hit a wall after COVID-19 struck Colorado. 

Schools went remote. Adults who could, stayed home. And her financial supporters, Boomers Leading Change, morphed into Experience Engaged but then, essentially, ended up retiring. Armao got to continue her program. It’s called Early Childhood Service Corps, which trains healthy adults over 50 to assist Colorado understaffed preschools. The first cohort graduates in May with an Early Childhood Teacher certification — plus a paying part-time job if they want it.

Mike Van Meter, who is training to become a preschool substitute, takes notes during his student observation at the Garfield Montessori School in Denver. He’s part of the first cohort of older adults training for a second career after retirement through the Early Childhood Service Corps. The 15-week program is taught by the University of Colorado, Denver and graduates will receive an early childhood teacher certification. (Provided by Early Childhood Service Corps.)

And now Armao, the program’s executive director, is looking for a few dozen more older adults to join the next cohort, which starts in late summer. Deadline to apply is May 31.

“This program is balanced between the two edges of society, young children, because we have an enormous crisis in early childhood (and) older adults who were either pushed out during COVID or decided to leave or retire and then had a change of heart,” Armao said. “You have all of those people whose quality of life is diminished because they don’t have purposeful activities.” 

Lisa Armao, executive director Early Childhood Service Corps

The program is open to adults anywhere in Colorado. Training is online through the University of Colorado, Denver. There are three potential tracks: Those seeking a part-time job working with young children and who want to become an “Encore sub,” those who just want to volunteer to help in the classroom, and those who want to be business advisers to help preschool directors write a budget, redo an HR manual or help schools with other administrative needs. 

Those who go through 15 weeks of training — eight in the first cohort — will get their certification to become substitute teachers in preschool classrooms. While graduates can then look for a job in their communities, Armao has a separate list of preschools ready to hire one of the new “Encore Subs.” One already has a job lined up at a Montessori school in Denver to work 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. three days a week.

“They couldn’t find anybody to work just two hours a day because who wants that?” she said. “Well, older adult Encore Subs do. It’s perfect for them. Two hours a day, three days a week? Sold!”

→ To apply, candidates must first attend an information session. >> REGISTER 

→ The U.S. Department of Labor provides tools and tips for older workers seeking a job through grants from its Senior Community Service Employment Program and also its Older Worker Program Finder. >> COLORADO LIST

QUESTION: Are you over 65 and still working? Or are you an employer tweaking jobs and hiring programs to attract older workers? Share your story by emailing

Women, including those 65 and older, getting back to work

Colorado’s job recovery has returned to pre-pandemic levels (we actually hit 102% in February, state economists said last month). But a group of people unlikely to return are those who retired or retired earlier than they expected. 

So far, that’s still the case, according to the latest Current Population Survey, which digs into the demographics of working Coloradans. But a bright spot: older women, especially those 65 and older. 

Overall, the state’s labor force of workers 65 and older was around 189,400, according to February data. Two years ago, it was at 196,400. But pull out female workers, and that number has grown 2.8%.

Take a look at this chart, showing the difference between men and women based on age. It compares annual counts and the solitary month of February 2022:

And it’s not just older women, but women in general who are returning to work, according to data from Gusto, a payroll and benefits services company with co-headquarters in Denver.

“We’d seen throughout the pandemic that women have been leaving more, the quit rate for women was consistently higher than it is for men,” said Luke Pardue, Gusto’s lead economist. “We did some work in our national reporting correlating that with school closures (in January) and you know, in Colorado, 30% of households with children experienced some sort of school closure. We looked in February and this gender gap almost completely disappeared.”

What happened? COVID cases have petered out, many children are back in school if their parents want them to be.

“As schools were able to reopen and child care became a little more reliable and dependable, women weren’t forced to leave at any significantly higher rates in February,” Pardue said.

The case of the vanishing sixth grader — A recent This American Life episode tells the story of one student who re-enrolled in school after an 18-month absence, plus other stories on how the pandemic impacted students in “School’s Out Forever.” >> LISTEN

ICYMI What it’s like to hunt for a job in Colorado when you’re over 50

Apprenticeship update

JUST IN: Colorado’s official apprenticeship program has extended its Scale Up grants deadline for two weeks. That means organizations and companies still have time to get a financial assist on creating future-employee training programs. Grants between $10,000 to $50,000 are being offered and the deadline is now April 27 at 5 p.m. Questions? Register HERE to attend the webinar on on April 14 at 11:30 a.m. >> STORY, APPLY 

clean trucks heavy trucks medium trucks Colorado greenhouse gas rules
The nation needs more truckers — 80,000 of them, according to the American Trucking Association. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  • The nation needs more truck drivers, or approximately “80,000 commercial truck drivers if we’re to meet consumer demand,” said Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Association this week. It was part of a press event in Washington, D.C., where the organization also signed on to become an official registered apprenticeship sponsor. 
  • Search for an apprenticeship: US, COLORADO 

Other working bits

→ Colorado Springs Starbucks opts to unionize: The Colorado Springs store, at 4465 Centennial Blvd, appears to be the fourth Starbucks in Colorado to start unionizing efforts. >> KKTV

→ Longmont United nurses vote to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board certified the vote, which won by one vote, 94 to 93, in favor of unionizing. The nurses union become the first private-sector hospital in the U.S. affiliated with the National Nurses United Union. >> CPR

→ Another state requires pay transparency: Colorado took the lead in 2019 requiring employers to share pay ranges in job openings to help women, people of color and others get a better sense of what a job pays. Now, Washington state has followed suit with Gov. Jay Inslee signed its version into law. New York’s law goes into effect in May. >> The Seattle Times, Fast Company (Sun’s pay-equity archive)

→ More work perks: If you missed last week’s column that shared a cost analysis on whether to offer retirement benefits or other perks versus the cost of replacing workers who quit, the perks are winning. Some recent news and surveys about the topic: 

  • TRAINING INHOUSE — Walmart raised starting pay for in-house truck drivers to as much as $110,000 a year. According to The Wall Street Journal, the lowest starting pay is $95,000, up from $87,000. The retailer also has a 12-week training program to help existing workers become truck drivers. >> WSJ
  • PERKS PLEASE — In a survey by job site Monster, 72% of people who recently said they’d consider returning to their old employer for higher pay, improved benefits or better perks. (FWIW, 72% also said they’d rather go back to their old job than get back together with an ex.). Some suggestions: starting bonuses, relocation stipends, company profit sharing and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion. >> REPORT, CNBC
  • SALARY STILL #1 — Whether a livable wage or way more, salary remains the top priority that matters most to employees, according to a survey by Flexjobs in Boulder. It ranked first with 83% of the responses. The next five, according to a poll of 1,248 employed people? 
    • Remote work, 63%
    • Flexible scheduling, 63%
    • Health insurance, 63%
    • Vacation time, 62%
    • Retirement plans, 50%

I’m always looking for feedback for the column, or other tips and suggestions. If you’ve got one, maybe I’ll write about it. Email me at Stay cool Colorado. ~tamara

What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column for readers navigating today’s economy. Read the archive, send a message and don’t miss the next one. Get this free newsletter in your inbox by signing up at

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Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at Contact her at,...