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Encouraging Entrepreneurship in High School

Amy Shields on Monday, November 18, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 

This post was authored by Danielle Britton, Talent and Education Director, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.

The Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge is an annual event in Binghamton, NY that brings together innovative minds of high school students and local businesses in a unique way. Founded by Modern Marketing & Commerce, GBSC gives high school students the opportunity to develop ideas and businesses that directly impact our community, all while competing for a chance to win scholarship money and internships.

The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and MMC partner to provide students with business connections and an inspiring final event. On Tuesday, May 21, MMC held its 10th annual Greater Binghamton Scholastic Challenge at Binghamton University in partnership with GBEOP. There were over 50 teams from 8 different local high schools who worked all year on the perfect business plan to showcase at the event.

Students worked with their teachers and business mentors to develop business ideas, create award-winning business plans and hone presentation skills. While given the choice to work individually or in teams, students were strongly encouraged to work together to learn communication and people skills. As part of the competition, the student or group was required to provide a professional tradeshow booth and business idea pitch. Local entrepreneurs and business leaders could then mentor or judge their business plans, which provided great connections and networking opportunities for the students.

To see a video from the 2019 Scholastic Challenge, click here.

Tags: education, Entrepreneurship, talent

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Investing in Work-Based Learning and Our Future

Amy Shields on Monday, October 21, 2019 at 8:00:00 am 

This post was authored by Amanda Beights, Vice President of the Leadership Collier Foundation.

The mission of the Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, is to build a broad-based network of engaged community leaders. The foundation accomplishes this through its well-recognized leadership programs and talent development initiatives.

Cultivating Student Leaders & Developing Our Workforce

For more than 15 years, Youth Leadership Collier (YLC), the foundation’s program designed for students between their junior and senior years of high school, has empowered over 500 local graduates to become effective community leaders. The week-long program teaches leadership skills and personal development through hands-on experiences and eye-opening industry tours.

We also often hear from the local business community about their frustrations with talent development in our area which led our leadership to define workforce development needs to be a top policy priority for the Naples Chamber. Knowing the impact Youth Leadership Collier has made and the Chamber’s investment in connecting education and business, we realized the potential to develop similar work-based learning experiences for all local students.

Connecting Students to Professional Opportunities

Our focus is connecting students and businesses to internship opportunities, mentoring prospects, shadow days, industry fairs, networking events, work-site tours and in-school career programming. Over the past two years – through partnerships with our public and private high-schools, higher-education institutions and nonprofit organizations – we’ve paired thousands of students with successful work-based learning opportunities.

For example, one of the main draws of Youth Leadership Collier is the opportunity to get behind-the-scenes tours of local businesses. Expanding on that idea and the needs of our community, our team has set up site-tours with local manufacturing facilities to introduce up-and-coming talent to potential new career pathways.

We also host Mentor Mingle opportunities designed specifically for high school and college students to network with local business professionals. This gives students the opportunity to practice their soft-skills and develop relationships with community members out of their immediate circle.

The benefits for students, businesses and the community are extensive. Students enjoy applying what they learn in the classroom to the real-world and establish professional contacts for future employment. Employers gain access to a pool of skilled future employees and find opportunities to pursue new projects with student assistance. The community benefits because we have created an environment of collaboration, cooperation and respect for all involved. Work-based learning is a win for everyone.

Over the last year, our director of work-based learning has served as a resource to students and employers. Taking the time to nurture future talent from our educational institutions and informing employers on the value of hiring an intern.

More Resources to Come

Southwest Florida can expect a lot from the Greater Naples Chamber’s Leadership Collier Foundation in the future.  

Our team is going beyond the traditional methods and encouraging students to think differently about careers in Collier County and pathways to prosperity. We are here to support all by serving as a leader and partner in the connection to business, education and talent development in Collier County. Our goal is to create economic opportunity for all and motivate our future leaders to better our community and their lives for years to come.

For more information, visit www.NaplesChamber.org/CollierLeads or contact amanda@napleschamber.org.

Tags: education, talent, workforce

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Creating a Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators

Amy Shields on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 8:00:00 am 

This post was authored by Stephanie Newland, Vice President, Workforce Readiness, Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

Students ask, “Why do I need to know this?” and “When will I ever use this again?” Do educators really know? They may know about doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and teachers, but what about machinists, CNC operators, multi-craft maintenance and so many other technical professionals who have high-demand, high-skill, high-paying careers? Would they know to advise their students to consider these jobs? Most likely not. Hence, our nation’s current skills gap!

We never discourage anyone from getting as much education as they desire or need to reach their goals, but we have found that many students do not know enough about technical careers to choose them as a goal. We want students to marry their interests and passions with available career opportunities and get as much training and skills in those areas as they can. We encourage all students (directly and through their teachers) to gain a marketable skill and preferably to earn certification(s) in high school.

We believe students should learn how to do something that employers will value and which will benefit their ultimate educational and career goals. If they are not financially able or choose not to go directly to college, they can still make a living. Then, maybe their employer will pay for their continued education. If not, they can still save for school, or work through school and have less, or possibly no, student loan debt. It is simply a win-win to have a marketable skill no matter what you plan to do after high school.

Since 2008, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce has hosted a summer program now called Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators. During this program, 25 – 30 regional educators (classroom teachers, counselor, administrators, youth workers, etc.) spend seven days touring local industry and the technical programs at Northwest-Shoals Community College, learning how the academics they teach in the classroom tie into jobs in business and industry.

Our target audience is middle and high school math and science teachers and counselors, but if we have space, we accept any interested educators. At the conclusion, they write career-related lesson plans, so students better understand the “why” and “when” of what they are learning. We then provide links to the lesson plans from our chamber’s Education/Workforce webpage and invite other educators to use them, which increases the ROI for the program. Those not on contract during the summer are paid a modest stipend ($75/day), which is funded by grants, sponsorships and donations. Participants are also eligible to receive professional development credit, both CEUs / Contact Hours for classroom teachers and a state-approved PLU for administrators.

Businesses who participate love sharing their workforce needs and challenges with the educators. Educators are amazed at all the businesses they never realized were even in the area, on “that street” they had never ventured down, as well as the great career opportunities for so many of their students who may not be interested in a 4-year degree … at least not yet. They learn how their math, science and English concepts are used daily within these businesses. They also see how important soft skills are, such as taking responsibility and pride in your work, being on time, critical thinking, teamwork and respecting others. They usually rank the WRI among the best, most relevant professional development opportunities they have ever encountered.

We are encouraging those at the state level to implement this type of program at colleges of education so student teachers will have a better understanding of the end result of the academics and skills they teach before they ever enter the classroom. An educator's goal should not only be to get students from Math A to Math B, but to make sure their students have a working understanding of how Math A can be used someday in various careers and why it is important that they can use it in the real world.

Tags: #Talent, #workforce, Careers, education

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Amy Shields Joins ACCE Team

Tania Kohut on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 9:00:00 am 

ACCE welcomes Amy Shields as its new senior manager of community advancement. In this role, Amy will lead professional development and peer learning opportunities for ACCE members to help them improve education and workforce development outcomes; pursue sustainable and inclusive economic growth and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the communities they serve.  

“Amy is passionate about our mission and excited to help chambers across the country create positive change,” said ACCE President & CEO Sheree Anne Kelly. “Her strengths in program management, stakeholder engagement and communications make her a perfect fit for this role.”

Amy joins ACCE’s bicoastal team that was formed through a strategic partnership between ACCE and the Los Angeles Area Chamber to leverage the LA Chamber’s expertise in strengthening education systems and ACCE’s national reach and professional development platform. She will manage community advancement programming and work to identify industry trends to showcase the mission-based value chambers bring to communities across the country.

Prior to joining ACCE, she served as program manager for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), overseeing GEO’s publications and managing programs to help grantmakers and nonprofits make a greater impact through their philanthropic work. Prior to that, she worked for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, an ACCE member organization in Virginia.

 

Tags: ACCE, community advancement, education, Workforce Development

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Hitting the road with the AWB

Ben Goldstein on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 12:15:00 pm 

The Association of Washington Business is going on tour. Assembled into two decked-out buses, the AWB team is crisscrossing Washington state visiting local manufacturers to celebrate  National Manufacturing Day. The six-day, 70-plus-stop tour has brought the group to a 154-year-old textile manufacturer, a four-year-old brewery and a maker of first responder vehicles, as part of an effort to promote locally-made goods and public policies that support makers.

“This is our inaugural statewide bus tour celebrating and highlighting the importance of manufacturing to the economy and the state of Washington,” said Kris Johnson, president and CEO at AWB. “We recognize that a vast majority of manufacturers are either privately-held or family-owned, so it’s not just about building strong companies, it’s about building strong communities and families as well.”

The crew is travelling in two buses, outfitted out with colorful logos and eye-catching designs. At every stop along the tour, workers are invited to autograph the bus and pose for a group photo with the signed bus in the background.

“How often has it been legal for you to write on a vehicle?” mused Johnson. “There must be 3400 signatures on it with the different logos. It’s really cool to see the all the personalization on this bus.”

Among the tour’s stops was Lampson International LLC, a family-owned maker of heavy lift cranes that employees 450 people in the Tri Cities area of southeastern Washington. They also stopped off at John I. Haas Inc., the leading provider of hops throughout North America.

“Every single manufacturer we’ve visited is so appreciative that we’re doing this,” said Johnson. “We are seeing a mixture of the types of products we all use in our everyday lives, but sometimes forget they are made right here in our local communities.”

Aside from meeting with manufacturers, the tour also includes an educational component. At Delta High School, a STEM school in Pasco, Washington, Johnson spoke to students about available science and technology opportunities in the local economy.

“At Delta, they’re preparing students for the types of STEM-related careers you can get when you’re done with high school,” said Johnson. “We know that 70 percent of all job openings by 2020 will require some type of STEM or post-K-12 experience, so these programs are really essential for developing talent locally.

Johnson says he hopes the tour will spread awareness about the important role that manufacturers play locally, as well as the policies they need to thrive. He says that issues related to regional competitiveness, like lowering tax rates on manufacturers, will be key to increasing prosperity in the state.

“The folks we’re meeting with clearly understand how important competitiveness relief is, especially when they’re competing against companies all across the globe,” said Johnson, adding that, “these companies could really use some predictability, reliability and common sense relief from a competitiveness standpoint.”

Want to see your story featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share it with Ben Goldstein.  

Tags: Association of Washington Business, education, Manufacturing, talent, Tour, workforce

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Free E-Newsletters Worth Subscribing To

Michelle Vegliante on Monday, October 17, 2016 at 10:30:00 am 

Ever wonder how ACCE’s Education Attainment Division (EAD) team stays up to date on all things education and workforce development related? We take advantage of the many free e-newsletters available and wanted to share a few of our favorites with you. From equity to fundraising, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a collection of the ones we have found to be most valuable. 

Collective Impact

Collective Impact Forum Newsletters
Content related to collective impact, includes case studies, tools, and resources from Collective Impact Forum / Note: You must make a profile to receive emails.

Economic & Workforce Development

C2ER Weekly
Content related to economic development, workforce, and labor issues, includes resources curated from around the web and programs of the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER).

National Skills Coalition Monthly
Content related to workforce, education, and training policies, includes news curated from the web and resources created by the National Skills Coalition.

SSTI Weekly
Content related to economic development through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, includes news curated from around the web and analysis from the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI).

U.S. Chamber Center for Education and Workforce Monthly
Content related to business engagement in education and workforce development, includes resources created by the U.S. Chamber Foundation.  

Education

Community College Daily or Weekly
Content related to issues and legislation that affect community colleges, includes resources curated from the web and articles written for the American Association of Community Colleges.

Education Dive Daily
Content related to trends and advancements in either the K-12 or higher education industries, includes headlines curated from around the web.

Gallup Newsletter
Content related to research on the U.S. education system, includes original data and research reports from Gallup.  

InsideTrack Innovation Bulletin Weekly 
Content related to innovation in higher education, includes headlines curated from around the web

Lumina Higher Ed News Daily
Content related to higher education attainment, includes news curated from around the web and resources created by Lumina Foundation.

Equity & Youth

America’s Promise Alliance Weekly
Content related to issues affecting the successful education path of young people, includes resources curated from around the web and a list of funding opportunities.

CLASP Newsletters
Content related to economic and workforce policies that affect low income people, includes analysis and resources from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Philanthropy and Fundraising

Inside Philanthropy Daily
Content related to fundraising strategies, includes insights into funder mindsets and fundraising tips.

Philanthropy News Digest RFP Alerts Daily
A daily roundup of recently announced requests for proposals from private, corporate, and government funding sources / Note: Creating an account allows you to filter your RFP preferences.

Philanthropy News Digest RFP Bulletin Weekly
A weekly roundup of recently announced requests for proposals from private, corporate, and government funding sources

Policy

Federal Flash
Five-minute (or less) video series on important developments in education policy from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Pew State Line Daily or Weekly
Content related to trends in state policy, includes news curated from around the web and policy analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Workplace/HR

HR Daily
Content related to workforce and workplace trends and practices, includes analysis and news from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).

 

Do you know of any e-newsletters to add? Email mvegliante@acce.org with your suggestion and it will be added to this list. 

Tags: Economic Development, education, Education Attainment, Grant research, Grants, Policy, Workforce Development

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Developing Talent in Sarasota

Jessie Azrilian on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 

As a pillar of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Sarasota Tomorrow Economic Development Initiative, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is using a collective impact strategy to secure 30,000 new degrees by 2020. The Partnership is creating a comprehensive career pathways system, at both the high school and post-secondary level, which enhances area students’ opportunities for career exploration, skills development and placement in high-demand, high-wage careers.  As a new Partnership, Talent4Tomorrow is focused on building operational support, research, data, communication efforts and incorporating assessments.

Interview Participant: Steve Queior, CCE, President & CEO, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

Awardee Spotlight

Q: How did your community begin to focus on Education Attainment and Workforce Development?

Throughout the recession, our region experienced several rounds of painful job cuts, yet we saw employers struggling to fill open jobs due to a lack of talent. We started to feel the pain of this skills gap in our community and began to look at what chambers in other communities around the country were doing to address their workforce issues. Over a period of two years, our Chamber connected with national groups like the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and learned how communities were rallying together through strategic coalitions. We knew we needed to do the same in the Greater Sarasota Area.

Q: What were the most important factors that helped spur the chamber’s efforts to strategically address local workforce issues?

The most important factors involved having the right people at the table. In addition to private sector employers, our Chamber’s board consists of the school superintendent, leaders from both city and county government, and four college presidents. During our board meetings and retreats, we have the necessary stakeholders listening to employers saying ‘hey, I read about the high unemployment rate; yet I can’t get a precision machinist at my specialty manufacturing facility;’ or ‘I can’t find skilled healthcare workers or construction workers.’ We were able to aggregate these conversations to find that it came down to four industry classifications that were the most in-need of workers. From there, we focused on a dual strategy to re-train unemployed individuals while also developing a long-term career awareness and career pathways strategy for our young people. The next factor was key community organizations- such as the community foundation and Career Edge, a group specializing in adult training and retraining- stepping up to provide funding and operational support.

Q: What are other efforts related to education and workforce development that your chamber leads?

There are four chamber-led boots-on-the-ground efforts:

Internship Database: A portal on the chamber’s website provides a space for employers to post searchable available internship opportunities for students; then we facilitate matches between the two. With support from ACCE’s Lumina Award for Education Attainment, we plan to reengineer this portal to include resources such as a “how to” workshop for employers who have not traditionally utilized interns; and a database with information on internship providers and success rates (i.e. how many of the students who get an internship go onto the next step in their schooling, what impact these internships have on graduation rates and what students go on to do in their careers).

Career Exploration: After eight months of research leading up to the launch of Talent4Tomorrow, we realized a major weakness in our community was that students lacked awareness about potential careers and how to prepare for those careers. Our partners are working on piloting a 6-week “Summer Bridge” program with Road Trip Nation, a group that creates innovative career exploration experiences and resources. Through the program, students receive scholarships covering tuition, books, etc. and complete up to six college credits by taking two courses- including “Student Life Skills,” which is a project-based curriculum developed by Road Trip Nation.  

The Chamber is launching a Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) for the Central West Coast of Florida in Fall 2015. During the twenty-one week program, middle and high school students will go on company tours, build a business plan, and launch a legally operating business. Business professionals will serve as mentors and speakers. The program has had great success in other cities, and statistics show that students that go through the YEA program progress in school, earn degrees and pursue productive careers. 

Addressing the Skills Gaps: After a labor survey conducted last year revealed a critical skills gap, a coalition of community stakeholders created a curriculum called Precision Machining. The Sarasota County Technical Institute provided the space; local counties donated a third of a million dollars for equipment; and local companies lined up to hire individuals who finished the course. Our manufacturing action team is currently working to bring the Manufacturing Skills Standards Certification into area high schools and has developed a community-wide career awareness campaign for high-demand careers in this industry.

Q: Best practices or lessons-learned to share with other chambers working on education reform?

The Chamber conducted an asset map to assess education needs in our community and get a sense of which organization was doing what. We found that efforts related to early childhood education, as well as those addressing adult workforce training and re-training, were strong.  But efforts to ensure middle and high school students were on a path to college needed to be strengthened. Right now the average age that a young person returns to college after entering the workforce directly after high school is 28. This information gave our chamber a focus moving forward.

**More lessons and insights from the 2014-15 ACCE Lumina Award Winners will be available in the upcoming Fall edition of ACCE's Chamber Executive Magazine

 

 

Tags: education, Goal 2025, higher education, Lumina, talent, Workforce Development

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Creating an Information Systems and Technology Education Pipeline

Analidia Ruiz on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 

The Greater Omaha Chamber is committed to implementing cradle-to-career strategies that strengthen the talent development pipeline for the region’s highest-need industry sectors. Working with key partners from K-12 and higher education institutions, and their Workforce Investment Board, the Chamber is identifying opportunities to build strong curriculum and programs that support their IT sector, and promote available IT-related education and career opportunities.

Interview Participants: Sarah Moylan, Director, Talent and Workforce

Awardee Spotlight

Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

A: The story begins about 5 years ago when the Greater Omaha Chamber received a grant from National Fund for Workforce Solutions. During that time, the state controlled the Workforce Investment Board (WIB), and a lot of decisions weren’t being made from a local perspective. We really wanted to get back to a place where we were directly dealing with the challenges and opportunities that existed in the community. Support from the National Fund enabled us to leverage technical expertise, build capacity within our staff and community partners, and learn from best practices and models other states had utilized in working with their WIBs. Over the next few years, the Chamber worked directly with community partners to create a new non-profit organization outside of the Chamber called Heartland Workforce Solutions. Because of the structure and sustainable system plan put in place through this organization, it eventually regained control of the WIB from the state. From there, we built the American Job Center, a new workforce center serving the region under the banner of Heartland Workforce Solutions. The center houses 15 workforce system partner organizations that provide training and education services. Having these partners and agencies under one roof really streamlines efforts and improves collaboration and communication.

Q: Today, what would you say that your chamber’s most important role is within this body of work?

A: Our main focus is to grow the economy in the Greater Omaha region to help bring prosperity to the people living in our area. To do this strategically, the Chamber has been a leader in convening stakeholders around jobs, labor, and workforce data. Data has been one of the biggest factors driving the decisions and actions of both the Chamber and Heartland Workforce Solutions. We lead with data, and in regards to educational attainment, use data as a platform to help people understand their role in driving change and improving outcomes.  

The role we play as a convener brings groups to the table that would benefit from working together to help build a better education system. Within education there are also lot of partners, such as direct service providers, working with students or adults outside of traditional institutions. Our role has been to solidify a system that’s working together—bringing philanthropy, education, government and private business to the table—to help strengthen the education pipeline.

Q: Can you tell me about your chamber's overall education and workforce development portfolio of work?

A; The chamber is leading a three-pronged strategy to build a cohesive cradle-to-career system, ensuring systems and partners are in alignment from preschool to workforce development.

The first leg of the strategy uses data to realign talent development along the P-16 pipeline in alignment with workforce needs. We convene partners to provide data on where the jobs are and what skills they require, and then work on how to realign programs, such as those focused on Information Technology and STEM, to meet those industry needs. An analysis we conducted of workforce needs for our region showed that our talent supply was not meeting industry demand, specifically in areas of IT and engineering. We had a huge demand for that type of talent, but our post-secondary completion rates in those fields were falling way behind the curve. For example, last year we surveyed 156 companies that are looking to hire over 1400 IT professionals over the next 2 years; and the number of students graduating college with those skills is nowhere near that number. The issue wasn’t that students weren’t graduating, but it was that not enough students were getting into the programs that match workforce needs. Therefore, we looked deeply into the kind of career awareness and exposure students get at a very young age that could lead them into post-secondary STEM focused programs, such as IT.

The second leg of our strategy is to grow and retain talent through career awareness programs and marketing strategies focused on engaging individuals at a young age. The ACCE Lumina Education Attainment Award is helping us expand a career awareness campaign that exposes youth to IT and other STEM careers. Marketing and promotion taking place within the schools helps shift student perceptions about IT careers and directs them to outside opportunities to work alongside IT professionals—such as camps, internships and mentorships. We also host Teacher Internships to build career awareness among students. Forty educators work with twenty participating employers over the course of a week to learn about STEM and IT careers and the kinds of skills needed to land those jobs. (See program video here.) Participating teachers are paid for their time and are required to submit new lesson plans that incorporates what they learned from their internship into their curriculum.  

The third leg of our strategy is to take on an advocacy and public policy role that drives decision-making at the local level. We were at the table advocating for new leadership within our public school system by: 1) recruiting candidates from the community to run for school board positions; and 2) serving on the selection committee for the public school superintendent. We also recently completed a bond proposal for supporting public schools, which our chamber’s board supported and helped pass locally.

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

A: Having data to drive your strategies and decisions is huge. It changed the way in which we operated and gave us information that everyone could convene around, understand and utilize. Then, it’s important to understand that the power of convening partners around a common issue and finding opportunities to collaborate is far more beneficial and influential than one could possibly realize. Also, quality relationships take time to build and they require maintenance, but they’re huge for our work! Making relationships a focus of your work and being that convener that brings people together is crucial. Lastly, it’s important to respect different perspectives and what everyone brings to the table. Often when trying to influence or advance an education and workforce development issue, stakeholders will have different experiences that represent all sides and shapes of an issue. Many of us are not educators, yet we’re trying to influence what happens in education, so respect is essential when working collaboratively.

For additional chamber-led post-secondary best practices and resources, visit the Higher Education Chamberpedia page
Want to learn more? Contact aruiz@acce.org

Tags: education, higher education, Lumina, Workforce Development

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Partnerships Achieving Bold Goals in Cincinnati

Analidia Ruiz on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 8:00:00 am 

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, among the nation's oldest and largest chambers, is working with the regional United Way to achieve a set of Bold Goals for the community by 2020. With United Way-funded Partners for a Competitive Workforce, the Chamber is helping to develop career pathways to ensure individuals gain the higher skills needed to meet employer demands.

Interview Participants:

  • Mary Stagaman, Executive Director of Agenda 360 and Vice President for Regional Initiatives, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
  • Janice Urbanik, Executive Director, Partners for a Competitive Workforce

Awardee Spotlight

Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

A: (Janice) In 2001 our region was marked by a time of civil unrest, exacerbated by a lack of employment opportunities for many individuals in our community. Between 2001 and 2008 many regional initiatives sprouted to address the employment issue—some saw success and some did not. During this time, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions was getting ready to expand their funding to new sites across the nation. Community stakeholders saw this opportunity as a systemic approach to addressing skills gap issues that had been lingering in the community for a long time and formed a public-private partnership to apply for those funds. We launched the Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and then in 2011 moved the network to the United Way of Greater Cincinnati for the long-term.  Shortly after, we rebranded and reframed our work as Partners for a Competitive Workforce—an umbrella organization that brings together the region’s workforce efforts and aligns them towards a shared mission.

While this work started because of disparities in the community, we were also consistently hearing from employers who had many open positions but could not find people with the right skills to fill them. Feedback from employers as well as residents in the community became the impetus behind the workforce development focus.

Q: How did your chamber become involved?

A: (Mary) The Chamber was at the table for all the discussions that led up to the creation of the original network. We were deeply engaged in a mayoral initiative at the time called Go Cincinnati (an economic development program to create jobs and grow the local tax base) to create a more strategic approach to workforce development. Since then, we have closely aligned to the work of Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW) and their network of intermediaries so that we can continue to get people into the labor force and into sustainable employment. Chamber leadership serves on the Advisory Council for PCW. We also created a talent pipeline manager position to ensure there was alignment with the work PCW is doing in the K-12 system. This helps eliminate the possibility for disconnects at some critical points along the career pathway.  

Q: Can you tell me about your chamber's overall education attainment and workforce development portfolio?

A: (Mary) It is important to note that we are unlike some of the other chambers in this cohort that received support through ACCE’s Lumina Award for Education Attainment. Essentially, our Chamber outsources workforce development; we rely heavily on organizations like PCW to lead the way rather than duplicate their efforts within the Chamber’s operations. We are partners not only in name; we are deeply invested in the work that they do. Furthermore, because we support the Strive Partnership and other members of a cohort using collective impact as a framework for change, it is inherent that we align the work of many organizations—including our colleges, universities and other community partners—to make sure that together we are consistently moving the needle on education attainment.

As a region, we track at about 30 percent bachelor’s degree attainment overall, which is on par with the nation as a whole. However, we know all too well that 30 percent is insufficient for us to remain economically competitive over time. So, we think it is critical to build awareness of the work that needs to be done to increase education attainment.

One specific area of concern is our African American population, for which the bachelor’s degree attainment rate is 15 percent. This is a compelling example of untapped potential in our region that we believe could be developed, grown and leveraged more effectively in a generation or two if we work to help people become more successful—starting with being prepared for kindergarten. 

A: (Janice) The Chamber is deeply involved in a number of community initiatives, and we have a tremendous network of partners all of whom work very closely through the collective impact approach.

In workforce development, we want to increase the number of training programs, workforce readiness programs, etc. to help people achieve gainful employment. Our goal is to move the percentage of individuals gainfully employed from the current 88 percent to 90 percent. You might think that’s only two percentage points, and that’s not much; but that represents 24,000 people, which is going to be a big lift in our community. We strive to work in conjunction with high-need neighborhoods to leverage their assets in order to lift them up commensurate with the goals they have for their communities. We are trying to be very strategic in applying key place-based strategies as well as multi-generational approaches.

Several of the chamber's initiatives have built strong momentum for its goals, including: the Chamber’s regional action plan, Agenda 360 and; the region’s 2020 Jobs Outlook, a shared report that forecasts future workforce opportunities to help guide curriculum and workforce preparation.

Q: How does your chamber and its partners measure/benchmark success?

A: (Mary) Since we are a tri-state region, we measure our topline success across three states: Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. It’s a very complex political landscape that comprises 15 counties and more than 300 jurisdictions. With partners in Northern Kentucky, we started a project five years ago called Regional Indicators, which has become a brand under which we have issued a number of reports. The baseline Regional Indicators Report evaluates the status of the Cincinnati region on 15 key indicators of economic health, which are drawn from consistent and credible sources like the Census, the American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What makes the data particularly valuable is not only seeing how Cincinnati is performing on its own, but how its performance compares against a peer set of 11 other regions that it competes with for people and jobs. We were considered pretty brave when we released the first report in 2010 because Cincinnati was ranked at 10 out of 12 regions at the time. After five years, we have moved up one position in the ranking to 9 out of 12, and have seen considerable improvement in a couple of indicators including knowledge jobs; we are excited about that. The Regional Indicators report has created a really valuable community conversation about how we are stacking up as a region. It creates a sense of urgency to move the needle on the indicators that top-performing regions have in common. One of those is educational attainment.

Q: How are your education and workforce development initiatives funded?

A: (Janice) Our programs are funded by a number of organizations interested in workforce development. The bulk of our operational expenses are covered by funds that are granted to us through the United Way, which is our managing organization, but also from the community foundation and some other private foundations in our region. We get funds to cover programmatic expenses through grants from foundations like Lumina Foundation or from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, which has a Social Innovation Fund grant. We also regularly apply for Department of Labor grants and funds from other local and national funders.

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

A: (Mary)  The use of consistent, credible data is critical to both knowing if you are making a difference, but also to telling a story in a way that resonates and builds buy-in from different stakeholders. There are certainly qualitative measures of improvement that we want to continue to track, but the more that you can translate the qualitative into the quantitative, the better it tracks especially with the business community—in demonstrating the return on investment for different programs. I think that demonstrating this clearly as you make continuing investments into new programs or new initiatives is critical to getting continued funding and wide-spread community support. Underscoring both the mission (i.e. what we’re trying to achieve) and really good metrics is critical to success.

 For additional chamber-led post-secondary best practices and resources, visit the Higher Education Chamberpedia page
Want to learn more? Contact aruiz@acce.org

 

Tags: education, higher education, Lumina, Workforce Development

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Bridging the Skills Gap in Greensboro

Jessie Azrilian on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 

The Greensboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce has a big goal to raise higher education attainment in Guilford County to 51% by 2025. As part of this effort, they are focusing on adult college completion, with the goal of ensuring at least 1,500 adults return to school, of which 1,000 complete their degree by 2016. In 2014, the Chamber received a Lumina Education Attainment Award for their efforts to close the skills gap in their community through connecting students to aviation-related manufacturing and STEM skills.

Interview participant:

  • Deborah Hooper, President, Greensboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce

Awardee Spotlight

Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

A: 
Employer surveys were revealing a critical skills gap in Greensboro. Local companies saying they were unable to find a workforce qualified to fill available positions juxtaposed with a high unemployment rate. The local United Way and The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro convened key stakeholders to form the Greensboro Works Task Force (Task Force).  The Task Force addressed the intersection of workforce development, family economic success, and degree and credential attainment.  After researching potential solutions, the Task Force recommended three programs:

  • Degrees Matter!: this is a shared partnership between The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Opportunity Greensboro and The United Way of Greater Greensboro whose mission is to increase the number of adults with college degrees in Greater Greensboro/High Point by engaging, connecting and supporting the 67,000+ residents who have been to college but not finished a degree.
  • National Fund for Workforce Solutions: Greensboro has been pursuing an invitation to become an official site for this unprecedented initiative of national and local funder collaboratives targeting career advancement for workers and a more skilled and stable workforce for employers. The fund provides matching dollars and technical assistance in 32 sites nationwide.  A local funders collaborative matches national funds that are re-granted to local sector-based Workforce Partnerships.
  • Family Economic Success (FES) Assessment: this is led by the local United Way. The Aspen Institute and Annie E. Casey Foundation have created frameworks that are helping communities across the country assess strengths, challenges, gaps and opportunities in the economic success of families. This assessment tool gives particular attention to improving job opportunities and building assets for families.

Q: How did your chamber become involved? 

A: The Chamber got the ball rolling in 2012 because they kept hearing that there were 1,000 “difficult to fill” jobs due to employers not finding qualified workers. That data was never sourced, and no one knew where it was coming from. The Chamber approached the local HR Management Association and Workforce Development Board to collaborate on an employer survey to assess this statistic. The problem was worse than expected: rather than 1,000 “difficult to fill” positions, the survey revealed that the actual number was 1,775 for the 136 companies that responded. The survey also revealed a critical need in the Aviation industry and Aviation-related manufacturing for workers with STEM skills.

Q: How does your chamber measure/benchmark success?

A: One goal we benchmark is raising post-secondary education attainment in Guilford County to 51% by 2025. Part of this goal is adult college completion, ensuring at least 1,500 adults to return to school, of which 1,000 complete their degree by 2016.

The chamber also regularly conducts workforce surveys in order to strengthen the workforce pipeline and continue reducing the number of “difficult to fill” jobs.

Q: How are your education/workforce development initiatives funded?

A: 
The chamber’s efforts are funded by business members through our annual fundraising campaign. The Chamber has also collaborated on a marketing initiative called Aviation Triad that is funded by six community colleges, three cities, three aerospace employers, a foundation, and the airport authority.  Aviation Triad is now in its second year raising the number of qualified applicants for available aviation jobs. The annual fundraising goal to support the Aviation Triad work is $200,000. The Chamber plans to expand the initiative through additional partnerships to reconnect the untapped talent of returning military personnel to aviation jobs. 

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

A: There are many facets of education reform and workforce development.  We had to figure out which one(s), if resolved, would have the greatest impact on student success and workforce/talent development.  Best practices learned include: (1) doing the necessary groundwork to develop a coalition and collaborative environment between key stakeholders that will minimize destructive politics and help keep everyone focused on staying the course to achieve the desired results; and (2) keeping everyone informed and celebrating the progress made toward desired results so that they stay engaged.

Is your chamber leading efforts to increase the proportion of people in your community with degrees and high-equality credentials? Find out more about the Lumina Education Attainment Award program, and see if your chamber is eligible! Applications are due Friday, May 22.

Tags: Economic Development, education, Goal 2025, higher education, Lumina, postsecondary, Workforce Development

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