Published: Feb. 11, 2024 By

A statewide coalition of higher education and industry partners has outlined a detailed vision for Colorado to translate its legacy as a national leader in Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) into workforce development and educational opportunities for students and workers across the state.

“As partners across Colorado envision the future of quantum science and technology, it's important that educators are working together to provide the skills that students and workers will need in this exciting industry,” said Chancellor Phil DiStefano of the University of Colorado Boulder. “The vision document is a step in that direction, defining how we will collaborate and coordinate to offer education that’s tailored to the future.”

On the heels of the recently awarded translational quantum research seed grants—one of several components of OEDIT’s recent investment in Colorado’s quantum future—the “Creating a Colorado Quantum‐Ready Workforce in Service of the Nation” vision will pave the way toward the development of an actionable roadmap that will see Colorado’s government, academia and industry working together to keep the state’s students, workers and companies at the leading edge of the quantum future. Both the vision and the roadmap are tools that can also be used to fuel the work of Colorado-based Elevate Quantum, which recently earned the U.S. Economic Development Administration Tech Hub designation.

First convened by CU Boulder in October 2023 with funding from OEDIT, the Quantum Community Coalition, composed of stakeholders from a wide range of higher education institutions and industrial entities, was tasked with exploring how Colorado—already a national leader in QIST industry, research and education—can share its expertise, assets and infrastructure by expanding them into an efficient workforce ecosystem for the state and the region. The group explored how to design an ecosystem that reaches students and workers where they are, professionally and geographically, to create a diverse and inclusive quantum‐ready workforce.

Creating a QIST education framework 

The resulting vision lays out several critical steps for QIST workforce development in Colorado. First, it identifies a need for higher education and industry to come together to develop a compelling QIST educational framework that can be used by all participating schools to develop their programs, thereby increasing the ability of students and workers to move between programs and institutions in Colorado. It also outlines different approaches for industry involvement in credentialing students and upskilling workers to ensure that educational outcomes meet industry needs. Finally, it emphasizes the challenges of providing adequate instrumentation and infrastructure in this highly specialized, tech-heavy field.

“Colorado leads the world in quantum companies, quantum jobs and quantum innovation. This vision and the anticipated roadmap will help us grow a quantum-ready, inclusive workforce, where Coloradans have the skills they need to access good-paying jobs and help advance this transformational field,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.

Chris Gustavson, CU Boulder's workforce innovation director, likewise sees the development of a QIST education framework as an opportunity to create learning pathways that accelerate quantum-related economic growth across Colorado. “This vision is exciting because we are starting to connect the needs of the quantum industry with the education and training our skill-building ecosystem partner institutions are providing,” said Gustavson. “By strategically mapping learner journeys to our collective courses, credentials and experiential opportunities, as well as real-world needs and opportunities, we’ll deliver greater value to our students and strengthen our workforce, which also benefits the state’s companies and economy.” 

The expanding quantum industry encompasses a variety of career paths. “Almost half of quantum-related jobs don't require advanced degrees, which means the industry offers a vast array of employment opportunities across different educational backgrounds,” said Amanda Meier, Front Range Community College Optics Technology Program Director. “Working together with industry, we can effectively expand what we’re doing at Front Range Community College in Optics and Photonics across the quantum ecosystem in our state.”

Next stops on the roadmap to a quantum future

A quantum-ready workforce vision for Colorado is the latest in a series of important milestones marking progress driven by the State’s investments. The Quantum Community Coalition was first convened during an OEDIT-funded, CU Boulder-hosted Oct. 6 event that outlined the need for a vision to set the stage for a more detailed statewide roadmap. With a vision now in place, the coalition is developing a detailed roadmap to create a coordinated QIST workforce ecosystem for Colorado and the entire Mountain West. The coalition is expected to deliver this roadmap to the State by Fall 2024.