Q&A with John Altland, director of Denver’s FourFront Fuse Impact Center

By Karla Tartz | Feb 22, 2016

Q: John, can you tell us a little about your background and how you got involved with FourFront and CAMA?

A: After I graduated college, I spent four years on active duty at Fort Hood. When I came out of active duty, I went to work for University of North Texas where I did some student programming work and some career counseling. Then I worked for a guy named Ross Perot. He was running company called EDS, which had recently been acquired by General Motors. They needed help, and the culture of that company was such that they liked to hire prior military people because they were disciplined and they knew how to work from point A to point B. In total, I spent five years with EDS and at General Motors, worked quite a bit in the Detroit area, Flint, Michigan, in particular.

After that I spent 10 years in the 1990s with Tyson Foods. After that I did some work with consulting firms. In the last three years, I've worked with the Community College of Denver. Then this opportunity came about with CAMA and so I thought, "Let me use this 40 years of experience growing and developing supervisors, managers, and salespeople, and use it to help manufacturing in the state of Colorado."

Q: You're heading up the new Fuse Impact Center in Denver. What can you tell us about the new center?

A: The Fuse Impact Center for Denver metro will be located at the Commons on Champa for the entire year of 2016 and into 2017 until the building at MSU Denver is completed. So yes, we'll be here temporarily, but what great technology we have here in this building, what great opportunities there are for this as a gathering place. I'm very excited to be here at the Commons on Champa and to have access to the light rail and the bus system and so people can get here and take advantage of some of the programs and some of the events we'll be hosting here for CAMA and for FourFront.

Q: You mentioned technology, what technologies are you most excited about at the Commons?

A: The audiovisual technology, the ability to reach out to organizations that might be in Chicago or Columbus, Ohio. Also the webinars and the ability to actively participate in a webinar on OSHA or safety, on operations, new equipment, and then be able to discuss the best practices around some of that and the opportunities that present themselves to the manufacturers and the state of Colorado. We have access to the entire United States and I guess, when you look at it, the entire world.

Q: You have a lot of experience developing and training people, so it makes sense you're heading up the workforce development efforts in the state of Colorado. What can you tell us about the B.A.S.I.C. Program?

A: B.A.S.I.C. is an acronym that stands for Business and Schools in Collaboration. It was created as a model that could help schools, primarily high schools, technical colleges, and community colleges, to find a career pathway from those educational institutions to the manufacturers who need help. As we all know, you have three choices when you graduate from high school. You can go into the workforce, you can go into the military, and a lot of students say they're going to college. Some will go and try out college, some won't be successful, and they'll go back into the workforce or join the military. What we're hoping to do with B.A.S.I.C. is encourage those educational institutions to get more involved with the manufacturers in the State of Colorado and to actually drive that whole process and the transition from high school to what's next.

I believe that parents who are trying to help those students transition from high school to technical college, or community college, or a four-year institution are struggling to make those decisions. One of the main reasons they are struggling is the cost of higher education today. We're hoping the manufacturers who need workers will step up and help those students make the transition and help those families not have to be burdened by student debt when they get to the end of a two-year program, a certificate, or a four-year program.

Q: What kind of opportunities will exist for students as part of the B.A.S.I.C. program?

First there will be internships, which are short-term. They could be anywhere from 90 days 120 days where a student can get some practical experience, academic credit, and hopefully be paid at the same time. Those are short-term experiences, and yes, internships will be an important part of the B.A.S.I.C. program.

Another part would be apprenticeships, three- to four-year commitment where a student decides to work with a master who does a particular trade, and by working with that master, the student can become proficient in pipe-fitting, electrical work, sheet metal, or in manufacturing, welding or machining.

These all work together to promote B.A.S.I.C. and help manufacturers find the best and brightest, and the right fit for their company because, as their values and culture dictate, they want to find the right person that will stay with them a long time.

Q: What's the next step for manufacturers? How can they get involved?

I would encourage people to come here and ask for more information about how to get involved in B.A.S.I.C., how to get involved in internships and apprenticeships related to B.A.S.I.C. and what DPS and Career Connect are doing to create this model for workforce development in the state.

Karla Tartz is chief strategy officer for FourFront Colorado. Reach her at karla@fourfrontco.com.