Creating Career Pathways in Aurora
Chambers Mobilizing Towards a "Big Goal"
Situated 35 miles west of Chicago, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce serves as a catalyst for business development for the second largest community in the State of Illinois. In 2014, the Chamber received a Lumina Education Attainment Award to strengthen Pathways to Prosperity, a regional collective impact effort, which is developing career pathways in information technology, health sciences and advanced manufacturing. The Chamber and community partners are working to align existing programs with current and future business needs, and to ensure the initial pathways include opportunities for internships, dual credit and stackable credentials.
- Joseph Henning, President & CEO
Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?
A: For more than 25 years the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce convened a business-education partnership group – which placed business-member volunteers in individual schools and even individual classrooms – but objectives were fragmented. The Pathways to Prosperity program was recognized within the state for a number of initiatives we were doing within the schools, but it just wasn’t enough considering what we were hearing from employers in Aurora about workforce needs and industry-specific skills gaps. We realized we needed to refocus our efforts and move into that new, collaborative arena.
This is my 10th year at the Chamber, and education and workforce development has been a continuous conversation over the past decade. Employers were demanding a more skilled workforce and kept asking what the Chamber could do. What our employers realized is that the skills gap issue is not something you can tackle on your own, and as much as we tried pushing the needle on our end, we too realized that we just couldn’t do it alone. We were fortunate that the last couple of years everyone got to the same point and came to the table. Six months ago we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Aurora, the community college, and four local school districts. With that MOU, we now have an official partnership and each entity can now hold each other accountable.
Q: You were awarded ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award to support your chamber’s involvement in the Pathways to Prosperity program. Can you tell me about the program’s origins and your chamber’s specific role in its implementation?
A: Around the same time our initial education-focused conversations started, the West Aurora School District was interested in Pathways to Prosperity, a nationwide project of 10 states created by Harvard University and Jobs for the Future. We joined them at the start to provide insight into the skills needs of area employers. We did an asset map, and through that process we identified three industries to address through the pathways program: IT, health sciences, and advanced manufacturing. We went from being a partner at the table, assisting in the development of the asset map, to taking on a leadership role. Today, we are coordinating some of the pathway deliverables and processes while also ensuring all partners are focused on the same mission.
Pathways to Prosperity focuses on creating pathways of career exploration, awareness and development for students in grades 9-14. The goal is to link high schools, community colleges and employers to increase the number of youth who complete high school and attain a postsecondary credential with labor market value. For example, if students are interested in the IT sector, we have designed a curriculum that exposes them to the different careers they can have within that sector, and the education path and certifications needed to get those careers. Once they graduate high school they may have earned dual credit with the local community college, industry certifications, and/or stackable credentials. The stackable credential piece is key and will allow students to build upon a certification received in school. We just had our very first student in the IT Pathway pass the Microsoft Certification Exam, which was our first win within that specific certification process. Another example of success is that students within our Health Sciences Pathway graduate prepped for CNA Certification. After graduation, they can build on that to earn a RN Certification. Essentially, we are designing these pathways and credentials in a way that teaches students to understand the value of adding education and certifications to their portfolio after graduation.
Q: Tell me about your chamber's overall education/workforce development portfolio.
A: Our whole portfolio of work is really about a collaborative effort. We have a long history of working with many community partners - including our educational institutions, our workforce investment board and Pathways to Prosperity partners to name a few.
In some cases, our work involves advocacy. For example, we recently used the legislative process for approval of a STEM Academy for grades 3-8. We had to get new legislation passed for the academy because there was nothing currently on the books in Springfield to support it. The STEM Academy is in partnership with our local university and is offered to three partner school districts in our area. The STEM Academy sits on the university campus, which is unique because students are exposed to the college-campus experience, and the Academy’s educators are able to get a graduate level education. Academy faculty come from the three partner schools, and while they are teaching at the STEM Academy, they are able to take courses in specific subject areas. Once they have completed their teaching assignment, they go back to their home school district and become leaders in schools in helping develop curriculum and professional development supports for faculty. It is a very unique program, and there are a number of businesses involved in creating that STEM curriculum.
We also partner with our local Workforce Investment Board to implement an advanced manufacturing internship program. We worked with a number of our manufacturers to provide hands-on experience and class time to students so they get a better understanding of what manufacturing is – including everything from global manufacturing facilities to small, local shops. Part of that classroom component requires students to complete OSHA training and receive their OSHA certification through that process. This gives them one certification to add to their portfolio, which is the whole idea behind all of this. We are encouraging stackable credentials and certifications for students to build upon.
Q: How are your education and workforce development initiatives funded?
A: We are fortunate to be a recipient of ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award, which has significantly helped us support our partnerships and corresponding efforts. Currently, the entities sitting at the leadership table are contributing to the success of our work. The City of Aurora has provided funding towards our education attainment programs. The school districts are providing in-kind resources, such as senior leadership staff time and expertise and professional development opportunities for their educators.
We also currently have support from employers with curriculum development and internships, but we’re taking steps be able to go to them for financial support by getting the pieces together to show the successes of our programs.
Q: This is obviously a large investment in terms of resources and staff capacity. How do you make it work from an organizational standpoint?
A: In terms of capacity, we are very limited in our staff resources, with two full-time and two part-time staff members. The two part-time staff members are very specific to operations, and the two full-time staff include a membership director and myself. So it is a bit of a juggle. This is a passion of mine, continuing education and workforce development, so it’s really one of those responsibilities that I have happily added. We are also fortunate to have a consultant who is helping us with some of the research agenda and follow-up from meetings, etc. It is a huge time commitment, but in my opinion, it will pay off in the future. Sometimes, work is even accomplished through our volunteers. We’ve got a great set of business leaders who are really involved in either developing curriculum or providing internships. Once we start seeing more outcomes, we can explore a couple different options, including adding a workforce development position to the team here, or it might be appropriate to create a foundation and house that staff within it.
Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?
A: We hear it a lot, but success doesn’t happen overnight. I hate to be cliché driven, but once you fall, you’ve got to get back up. This has been something I have been working toward for 10 years now, and sometimes, you just have to have everything in alignment to be successful.
We are fortunate to have a great collaborative relationship with the city, the community college and our local school districts. You have got to rely on that collaborative piece, especially when you are a chamber with limited staff capacity. There is nothing that we do that is 100% driven by the chamber, whether its programs, events, or advocacy.
The key strength that a chamber brings is that we are the conduit for the business community and education. Sometimes you have to build that trust. Traditionally, business and education have not been the best of partners – there are often philosophical differences– and I think at times you just have to listen to what the needs are from both sides of the table.
Also, celebrate the small steps. Like I said before, we had one student pass the Microsoft Certification Exam – which is a small step for us, but we are very excited. Another small win is that we will begin next school year with three pathways in each of our seven participating high schools. Based on registrations for that academic year, we have realized a 25 percent increase in enrollments in Pathways-specific courses. Long-term goals such as moving that graduation needle may take 12 years to see a significant change, and nobody is going to wait around that long! Celebrate those small steps because that is how you win the race.
Helping Health Care Workers Move Up the Career Ladder
Chambers Mobilizing Towards a "Big Goal"
Metro South Chamber of Commerce received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award for leading Careers in Health, a program targeting entry and advanced level healthcare employees who seek career advancement but require higher education, certification or licensure. To help meet the needs of the region’s top industry, the program works in partnership with several healthcare employers and four institutions of higher education, offering courses to more than 205 incumbent healthcare workers pursuing career growth opportunities.
The Metro South Chamber serves one of Massachusetts’ fastest growing regions, consisting of eighteen communities south of Boston. The 101-year old chamber, located in the city of Brockton, has been a longtime champion of workforce development. As part of the Goal 2025 Blog Series, EAD staff interviewed Metro South's leaders who provided insights into the chamber’s history strengthening the local talent pipeline.
- Christopher Cooney, President & CEO
- Alison Van Dam, Vice President of Marketing, Communication & Business Development
- Christine Karavites, Senior Consultant
Q: What led your chamber to focus on education attainment and workforce development?
Metro South: This is the Metro South Chamber’s 101st anniversary, and it has a long history of engaging in education and workforce development issues. Several community development initiatives originated within the chamber and grew into their own community support entities. The Brockton Area Multi-Services Agency and Brockton 21st Century Corporation both started as chamber committees, convening stakeholders and developing workforce development strategies.
Q: You were awarded ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment award to support your chamber’s Careers in Health program, which helps incumbent healthcare workers pursue degrees, certificates and licenses. Can you tell me about the program’s origins and the chamber’s specific role in its implementation?
Metro South: Healthcare is the region’s largest industry sector and economic driver. The Chamber had previously seen success with smaller workforce/occupational grants we’d received from state agencies ($15-35k). Two years ago the state announced that business associations were eligible for $250k Workforce Training Fund consortium grants which go to companies training employees in job-related skills through a program designed by the company. Our's was the first chamber in the state to receive this type of grant which enabled us to allocate funds to several businesses within an industry sector for employee-training activities. The healthcare sector was the obvious choice.
Chamber staff coordinates the entire program, which targets entry and advanced level health care employees who seek career and workplace advancement but require higher education, certification, or licensure. The Chamber contracts with area colleges to develop curriculum and conduct the training. As part of the program, the Chamber's grant funds pay for the cost of employees' tuition and training with a matching contribution from employers to cover employees’ salaries while they receive training. The Chamber reaches out to healthcare employers from area hospitals and nursing homes to garner buy-in and articulate the need and value of the program as far as reducing turnover costs and increasing the supply of skilled workers to meet their industry’s need.
Q: This is just one program in your Chamber’s education/workforce portfolio, and it’s obvious that significant resources were invested - What were the resources, and how do you justify the investment from an organizational standpoint?
Metro South: The state allows the grantee to retain 10% overhead, but that doesn’t begin to cover the significant staff time and funding required to run the program. This program is only a small portion of our education and workforce development portfolio, with everything done through existing staff capacity (six full-time employees and 2 part-time employees).
However, the Chamber views this as a win-win-win.
The Chamber wins from a goal/mission-achievement standpoint. Workforce development, increasing educational levels, and serving the local healthcare industry are part of the Chamber’s economic development strategy to foster job creation and retention.
The colleges and businesses that participate in the program are chamber members. The colleges increase enrollment and receive funds from tuition fees. Employers benefit from more proficient employees and lower turnover rates.
Healthcare employees, the majority of whom are single mothers, receive training and degrees/credentials such as a Bachelors in Science Nursing or a Nursing Assistant Certification (CNA), helping them move up the career ladder and earn higher wages.
Q: Chambers are often challenged to sustain their education/workforce development work. Can you elaborate on how you've maintained and grown the the work started by the workforce training fund grant?
Metro South: Most of the hospitals and training facilities that have partnered with us are eligible to apply for their own state workforce training grants to continue the work. Now that employers have seen the benefits of participating in the program, we plan to expand the initiative by: 1) working with partnering companies to help them apply for their own workforce training funds; and 2) providing group training for healthcare employers on how to engage students in health careers and career ladder opportunities. Other ways we plan to sustain the initiative beyond the current budget include: 1) developing program implementation guides for employers as an alternative to the chamber providing one-on-one training, which can be very expensive; and 2) purchasing software to use in the chamber's business assistance center, which is a resource for employees and employers to use printers, computers, and software free of charge as well as take part in industry-specific training workshops.
Q: How do you measuring/benchmark success?
Metro South: For the Careers in Health Initiative, we collect employee-level data through surveys and ongoing and frequent dialogue with both participants and employers. The data collected tracks movement up the career ladder including wage increases, as well as employer data such as job creation and retention. A large component of the Workforce Training Consortium fund grant was tracking the return on investment for participating businesses.
All of our education/workforce development initiatives are grounded in research conducted with employers and the broader community, and they are the result of a cumulative effort over years of listening to community needs and supporting the regional healthcare industry.
Q: What advice would you give chambers interested in engaging in education attainment/workforce development?
Develop a strategy and test it with educational and employer partners. Then convene relevant stakeholders from education and business to refine the strategy and establish a plan of action.
ACCE has embraced Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Working in partnership with Lumina, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division launched a competitive awards program, providing chambers of commerce a $40,000 award to advance defined regional education attainment goals. In 2014, seven chambers of commerce received awards for setting ambitious workforce development agendas and showing momentum in achieving their community-specific goals.
The 2015-16 Lumina Education Attainment Awards application will launch April 27.
Chambers Mobilizing Towards Goal 2025
By 2020, the US Economy is predicted to have 55 million available jobs, and 65% of those jobs will require some form of post-secondary education. The fastest growing industries in STEM will require significant levels of education after high school. Evidence from employers surveyed across the country shows an alarming gap between the availability of jobs and workers with the skills to fill them. If current trends continue, these skills gaps are predicted to grow into massive labor shortages.
As the aggregate voice of local business needs, chambers of commerce are partnering with higher education institutions and community stakeholders, in order to equip the future workforce with the skills needed for college and career success.
Embracing Lumina Foundation's national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with degrees and high-quality credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025, ACCE launched a competitive awards program providing member-chambers a one-time $40,000 award to advance existing post-secondary education initiatives.
While approaches among awardees vary from championing career-themed high schools to launching training programs for healthcare workers, these chambers all demonstrate a history of sustained engagement in moving the needle on regional education outcomes. Through interviews, reports, and peer-to-peer sharing, leadership from the seven winning chambers have provided insights into what it takes to ensure students have the skills needed for success and employers have the talented workforce they demand.
The Goal 2025 blog series will feature one winning chamber each week in order to highlight successes, challenges, and opportunities identified throughout this awards program that can help other chambers build scalable and replicable programs and policies.
Follow the series each week to learn how chamber-led initiatives like Pathways to Prosperity and Talent4Tomorrow are connecting the current and future workforce to high-demand, high-wage skills and careers.
- Visit the EAD Higher Education Chamberpedia page for links to chamber-led post-secondary initiatives, resources for partnership building and business-focused research and reports.
The 2015-16 awards application will launch April 27.
Gauging the Skills Gap: Is Your Community Workforce Career-Ready?
Results from the ACCE Education Attainment Division's recent QuickPoll are now available! More than 100 chamber professionals responded to questions about their business community’s perception of candidates, the importance of several core skills, and their chamber’s initiatives. Take a look below, and click here for the complete QuickPoll results.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that jobs aren’t filled because of a technical skills gap:
- Half find that a lack of non-technical skills (e.g., communication skills and teamwork) is also a huge challenge:
- Of the core skills we asked about, critical thinking and problem-solving is the most highly valued by poll participants:
For more on ACCE's Surveys and Data, including QuickPolls, view our Research Overview page.
The Buddy System: Chambers Supporting New Year’s Health Resolutions
It is often said that the key to sticking to your New Year’s resolution is using the buddy system: enlisting a partner to support your journey and report your progress to. In the New Year, chambers of commerce are taking on this role in their communities for members who want to support their employees’ workforce wellness resolutions. Both the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Saratoga (NY) Chamber of Commerce have announced new initiatives to boost the health of their communities in 2015:
- Along with community partners, the Greater Des Moines Partnership has unveiled a new Wellness Toolkit, in an effort to help its small business members make Iowa the healthiest state in the country by 2016. With one year to tackle this goal, the Chamber has created a business-friendly 12-month toolkit.
According to the press release, “many small business owners like the idea of helping their employees remain healthy, but don’t have enough time, knowledge, or resources to implement a program. The Get Active Wellness Toolkit seeks to remove those barriers by arming small businesses with ‘plug-and-play’ content to help them implement a wellness program within their offices.”
Each month in the toolkit represents a different health theme, from fitness to dental health. Each kit contains a poster that lays out wellness tips, facts, and resources. Employers can also download packets that contain more health facts, suggestions for activities to implement in the workplace, and daily health tips that they can email to employees.
Also found on its wellness homepage, the Partnership has created various fact sheets regarding health and fitness, compiled a directory of resources for wellness in the workplace, and even supports a mobile app that connects members of the Des Moines community who have committed to an active lifestyle.
- The Saratoga (NY) Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Blue Shield of Northeastern NY, is hosting Saratoga’s first-ever Health and Wellness Week from January 5-11. Enlisting the participation of member businesses, the event will showcase many of the health and wellness opportunities available in Saratoga, with the goal of inspiring the community to live healthier in 2015.
Throughout the week, member businesses will help create buzz and excitement around health and wellness by offering a wide range of workshops, classes, discounts and seminars. These mini-events are designed to help community members explore new health and wellness products and services. Examples include mineral water tours, free fitness classes, mini facials, and cooking classes.
The Saratoga Health and Wellness Week was the brainchild of the chamber’s new Health and Wellness Committee, which is charged with expanding the chamber’s already expansive initiatives to make Saratoga one of the healthiest communities to live in.
For more information on how chambers are helping create healthier communities:
- Visit the Workplace Wellness and Community Health Chamberpedia Page to learn how chambers support childhood obesity prevention, corporate wellness, and access to healthcare
- Download the Workplace Wellness Communication Briefs to disseminate to members and broader community to explain how businesses can support healthy communities and healthy economies.
Quickpoll Reveals Chamber Interest and Involvement in Supporting Common Core
ACCE recently conducted a QuickPoll:Common Core State Standards to learn if and how chambers were supporting higher K-12 academic standards and assessments in their states and communities. 140 Chamber Executives responded to the Quickpoll and revealed that chambers were indeed both interested and involved. 44 percent of surveyed chambers have a policy platform supporting more rigorous K-12 academic standards and assessments. If a chamber did not already have one 22 percent said they would like to adopt a policy platform supporting new K-12 standards and assessments.
Chamber involvement on this issue is vital because of the lack of awareness and understanding of CCSS. A national poll released by Achieve found that 63 percent of respondents know very little or nothing about CCSS. Of those who had heard of common core, 40 percent had an unfavorable impression and 37 percent had a favorable impression. But when the principles of CCSS were explained in more detail, favorability improved to 69 percent, with only 23 percent retaining their unfavorable impressions. Additionally, a recent public opinion poll by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce revealed that outside of educators and military leaders, the business community represents the most credible voice to advocate for higher K-12 standards and assessments.
Our Quickpoll provided a snapshot of how chambers are working to ensure college and career success for their community's future workforce.
- 88 percent of chambers said they were working with key stakeholders such as state education agencies, local school districts, and teachers
- 78 percent are communicating to their members about Common Core State Standards or higher academic standards based on common core
- 63 percent are holding events focused on CCSS and 58 percent are speaking to policy makers about CCSS or higher academic standards and assessments.
How Can ACCE Help?
When asked about the supports/resources/services ACCE could provide to help chambers engage in the successful implementation of new and more rigorous standards and assessments:
- overwhelmingly (93%) of chambers wanted examples of best practice documents/case studies and examples of policy platforms from other chambers
- 79% wanted tips on engaging membership and/or assistance identifying community-specific goals
- 68% wanted tips on getting started
- 60% requested conference calls/webinars with content experts
- 50% wanted peer to peer connections with chamber executives also working on starting an education platform
Did you know...
The Education and Workforce Development Chamberpedia section of the HERO portal contains resources chambers can use to engage their communities across the whole cradle to career spectrum. Chamberpedia's K-12 section features business-friendly tools, samples and FAQs catered to all levels of interest and engagement whether you are interested in simply learning more about Common Core State Standards or are actively working with business leaders, schools, higher education institutions, etc. to prepare your communities to successfully implement more rigorous standards and assessments. Materials found in the College and Career Readiness section include: blog posts from chamber executives; a communications toolkit to reach policymakers, the media and the general public (including your employees) with a consistent business message about the need for improvements to our nation’s education system; sample common core pledge and letter from business leaders; and customizable one-page PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) flyers that organizations can add their logo and website to on how business leaders can work in partnership with schools and districts to shape new policies and practices.
Did you know...
The Education Attainment Division hosts bi-monthly webinars and conference calls for members of the greater EAD Community featuring content experts and chamber practitioners discussing topics across the cradle to career spectrum. Join next week's webinar: Deeper Learning for Global Competiveness to learn how businesses can help ensure students have the skills required to succeed in a globally competitive workforce. You can also listen to audio from the November 2013 EAD Community Call: Common Core Messaging- How to Get Ahead of the Pushback, facilitated by Kelli Wells, Director of US Education, GE Foundation.
Did you know...
ACCE has recently launched a Mentor Program. Chamber executives can self-select a range of expertise, including education and workforce development, or search for a chamber peer that has expertise in their desired interest area. Sign up to become a mentor or find a mentor today!
Chambers are vital to helping communities understand the importance of a skilled workforce prepared for to meet the demands of both college and career. Our Chamberpedia pages and Samples Library are populated by your contributions, so we invite you to help us continue to grow and expand on these valuable resources. Have a case study for how your chamber is supporting next generation standards and assessments in your community? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Visit the EAD page to learn more information about the Education Attainment Division.
**NOTE:you will need your ACCE login (jsmith) and password (EAD123) to access the links on this post and HERO resources.
Greater Spokane Inc's Business AfterSchool Program Brings Companies & Students Together
Last week Greater Spokane Inc. hosted Engineering Week as part of its Business AfterSchool Program. Business AfterSchool brings area students and parents to Spokane's high-demand industry sectors and companies to teach them about different careers and the skills needed to land available jobs. The program will devote one week each to focus on these industries: health care, engineering, manufacturing and computer science.
Education Attainment Resources You Can Use 24/7
Be sure to read ACCE's Education Attainment Division's latest blog post on "Business-Friendly Tools Chambers Can Use to Support a College & Career-Ready Agenda" (12/13/2013). This post highlights updated resources and tools you can use for education attainment, workforce readiness, and Common Core Standards for chambers and your members. If your chamber is doing any work in Education & Workforce Development, be sure to get connected to ACCE's Education Attainment Division in our Divisions & Groups. HERO content relies on your contributions. Have a Sample document, link, or resource to share with us? Email HERO@acce.org to contribute resources or ask us a question.
Impacting Education: Where are the Resources?
Chambers can influence a broad spectrum of issues by harnessing the collective voice of their business communities. Trends in corporate social responsibility and the burgeoning number of chambers directly involved in increasing regional education outcomes signify growing business involvement in education and workforce development.
A concerted, collaborative effort by local institutions can help identify areas where partners can work together to address pressing educational issues, better leverage resources and have a measurable impact. One way to begin this process is to use external asset mapping to stimulate thinking about potential resources to support your education and workforce development goals.
Consider these steps
- Determine where along the cradle to career spectrum you would like to engage: Early childhood education, K-12, post-secondary, workforce development?
- Choose a focus for your activity: Programs, policy, systems reform, messaging?
- Consider potential funding sources: Corporate sponsors, foundations, government funding, government funding through competitive grants (e.g., Race to the Top), community-based organizations?
An ACCE Quickpoll of 236 chamber executives found that two out of three cited a lack of staff or funding as the main obstacle to becoming involved in education and workforce development. However, chambers have overcome this hurdle through leveraging the impact of their business leaders to attract strategic partners and funders.
- The Talbot (MD) Chamber was part of a community team that raised money to purchase a laptop computer for every student from 8th grade until graduation. This program grew into the One to One Laptop Initiative and is now funded through the local school district as a budget item.
- The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s education and talent development initiatives include K-12 education improvement, talent recruitment and retention, and workforce systems development. Most of the funding for these initiatives comes from their Partnership 2020 economic development strategy, a five-year, 10-county strategic plan. In addition, the chamber has received funds for specific projects and initiatives from area corporations and philanthropists, local and national foundations and the region’s three Workforce Investment Boards.
- UNITE-LA, the education and workforce development arm of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, works with member companies, corporate foundations, local community based-organizations and philanthropic foundations to foster education and workforce development systems that support Los Angeles’ youth and the development of a thriving regional economy. UNITE-LA seeks public grants to support and promote these collaborative partnerships.
- Through their multi-partner regional business, community, and economic development collaborative, Sarasota Tomorrow Next, the Greater Sarasota (FL) Chamber of Commerce allocates funds from membership pledges for education and workforce development initiatives.
- The Arlington (TX) Chamber of Commerce partnered with their local university, workforce investment boards and city government to establish a co-owned and operated Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding to the Kentucky Chamber Foundation to develop their communications and business outreach campaign to build a coalition of business leaders advocating for college-and-career-ready standards in Kentucky.
- In Texas, funding for the Austin Chamber’s wide array of workforce and talent development initiatives was derived from a line item within Opportunity Austin, a five-county initiative for job creation in Central Texas fueled by $14.4 million in business investments.
The business voice is the strongest force to address the need for a highly skilled workforce to meet the demands of our global economy, and this work is something that every chamber can lead. For more information about ACCE's Education Attainment Division email or call 703-998-3571.
GED® Test Evolves to Better Prepare Adults for Success in the Workforce
As more and more communities struggle to fill available jobs with a skilled and educated local workforce business and higher education have realized the need to join forces in tackling the talent and skills gap issue. Read what GED Testing Service is doing to help students and adults meet current and future workforce demands.
In response to feedback from employers and colleges across the country, the GED® test is making a dramatic change in 2014, aligning with college and career readiness standards and focusing on the skills adults need to be successful in the workforce.
Over the past five years, report after report have come out and highlighted that adult learners need more than just a high school diploma to succeed in today’s economy and to earn a family-sustaining wage. There are not enough low-skill jobs for low-skill workers and adults are recognizing that the jobs that are available are middle-skill jobs – jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a Bachelor’s degree.
We have also seen that too many high school students are not graduating with the right skills needed to be successful in the next step in life – going to college or enrolling in a job training or certificate program. Groups like state and local Chambers of Commerce have been outspoken in their support of raising standards for high school graduates, which is important to ensure employers have access to adults with the right skills to be successful in today’s economy.
As the primary high school equivalency test provider for adult learners, GED Testing Service also heard that message loud and clear from employers and colleges across the country. After reviewing our program and looking at the changing economic landscape, we joined the effort to raise standards and improve the resources available to adults so that they can be successful after earning a high school equivalency credential.
New Benefits of the 2014 GED Test for Employers
Below are some of the significant features of the new GED® Test that will be released in 2014 that are most valued by employers:
· 2014 GED® test aligned with Common Core and college and career readiness standards – GED Testing Service worked closely with employers, colleges, workforce professionals and researchers to ensure that the 2014 GED test is aligned with college and career readiness standards and measures the problem solving and critical thinking skills most valued by employers and colleges. We have also demonstrated that our new test is strongly aligned with the college and career readiness standards outlined by the US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
· Provides college and career readiness target goals – While we will continue to measure high school equivalency, the 2014 GED® test will also measure where a test-taker’s performance level is in relation to college and career readiness in each of the four subject areas.
· Detailed score report – The 2014 GED® test will provide a wealth of information in the new detailed score report, which will outline the skills an individual has demonstrated and provide feedback on areas that need to be improved to demonstrate either high school equivalency or college and career readiness. This new feedback will better help employers, colleges, adult education instructors, and individual test-takers better understand the skills and competencies of a test-taker.
· Computer-based Testing – The 2014 GED® test will only be offered on computer, allowing adult learners to demonstrate basic technology skills and take advantage of some significant benefits like same-day score reports, online scheduling and a more flexible testing experience.
· GED Portal – The 2014 GED® test will also have an online portal that will help adults navigate the path of preparing for the GED® test, taking the test and connecting with jobs, college or certificate programs in their local community.
· GED Analytics – The 2014 GED testing system will provide states with a sophisticated analytics system that will allow states the ability to evaluate and report on the success of their adult education programs.
Some States Might Drop the GED® Test to Avoid College and Career Readiness Standards
While all of the new changes to the GED® test likely align with the education initiatives of your Chamber, some states are looking to replace the GED® test to avoid moving to college and career readiness standards. Given the leadership that Chambers have taken on this issue and the respect they garner from the states, we are hoping to partner with individual chambers to ensure that adult learners have access to a high school equivalency test aligned with college and career readiness standards.
GED Testing Service is excited to exhibit at ACCE’s 2013 Convention in Oklahoma City. Please stop by our booth to learn more about the changes and how you can help make sure your state is moving in the right direction.
Visit www.gedtestingservice.com for more information about the 2014 GED test.