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Education Attainment Division

Preparing Tomorrow's Talent in Birmingham

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 

Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) is focused on building a pipeline of students who participate in career themed high school academies and career-tech programs, pursue post-secondary credentials and/or degrees and fill available jobs in the region’s targeted industries.  BBA received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award to build upon this effort. The BBA is working to develop a web presence and marketing campaign for its newly launched Talent Recruitment Project, a program that hosts sector themed events to connect the workforce opportunities of Birmingham’s employers to college students as they near graduation. 

BBA’s VP of Workforce Development, Waymond Jackson, provided an interview to discuss BBA’s talent recruitment and development portfolio, from cradle-to-career. 

Q: What led BBA to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

Jackson:
 The demand from area companies to have a skilled and educated workforce led the BBA and its leaders to focus on education attainment and workforce development. In 2009, the Birmingham Business Alliance was formed through a merger of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and our regional economic development organization, the Metropolitan Development Board. Shortly after the BBA was formed, Market Street Service led the strategic planning process for our organization. Out of that research grew our strategic plan, Blueprint Birmingham. Blueprint was built upon four pillars: economic prosperity, education and workforce development, community and regional stewardship, and public and private leadership. Now, in the fifth year of that plan we are truly seeing the importance of having a sustained focus on preparing students at all levels of the education pipeline to be skilled and ready as they enter college and/or the workforce. 

Q: How do you explain the growth in your education/workforce development pillar?

Jackson: Now more than ever, it is easier for organizations like the BBA to justify our high prioritization of education and workforce development. Current information in Alabama suggests that 50% of our current workforce could retire today.  With such a large percentage of the current workforce at retirement age, it is very important that future workers are prepared to immediately step in and fill those positions or those yet to be created positions. As economic developers and site selectors continue to hear from expanding or relocating companies that access to talent is a critical component of economic development projects, organizations that are involved in the type of work we do will continue to have a role to play in the process; including working with educators at all levels to make sure they are informed of the latest industry trends and required skills of future workers. Overall, we want to make sure that the companies that invest in the BBA and in our region are able to find the high skilled talent they need. 

Q: Tell me about your chamber's comprehensive education/workforce development portfolio.

Jackson: We have active initiatives in four big areas to meet the goals and objectives of Blueprint Birmingham.

Improve Pre-k-12th Grade Education: When creating PreK-12 programs we look at whether students are getting the type of education that will allow them to graduate from high school and be ready to either take a job in our region or enter one of our local colleges. Once they enter college, we look at whether the classes and programs offered support the types of jobs available locally. 

Implementing Innovative Programs in Under-performing Schools: We are helping to establish career academies throughout the Birmingham City School System. Each high school now has a career-themed academy placed within the school into which students can self-select. These academies align with industry jobs growing in the Birmingham region. Academy themes include engineering, construction and architecture, health sciences, culinary arts, finance, and an urban teacher’s academy. We are also implementing a technology academy. All of the academies are aligned with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) which works very closely with Nashville City Schools (a model we looked at when creating the career academies). We provide industry data to Birmingham City Schools which informs them of available jobs in local industries, and the training and/or education needed to move into those jobs.  

Increasing Access to Pre-K: We are advocates for expansion of the state of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K. The state of Alabama has one of the highest ranked Pre-K programs in the country, and we are one of only 5 states to receive a designation from the National Institute for Early Education Research - meeting all 10 of the Institute’s benchmarks for quality. However, as of 2012, only 4% of 4-year olds had access to the program.  Since we began advocating, along with a host of other organizations who are truly leading the charge, access to Pre-K has risen from 4% to 12% statewide and funding from $19.1 million to $38.5 million.  Most of the data and information on Pre-K says that it works; for that reason, expanding access to high quality Pre-K has been a priority of not only our organization, but of our regional and state leaders as well. 

Encourage Two and Four Year Degree Programs that Support Regional Industry Sectors: ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award has allowed us to expand the talent retention and attraction objectives in our Blueprint. This entails working with businesses and local colleges/universities to: 1) understand what gaps companies have in positions that require two or four year degrees, especially for entry level jobs; 2) establish innovative programs that makes college students aware of the type of jobs in the Birmingham region; and 3) provide students with facilitated meetings, interviews and hiring opportunities with hiring managers and recruiters through our Talent Recruitment Project. 

Q: How does your chamber measure success?

Jackson: We benchmark success across several areas of the cradle-to-career spectrum: 

Talent Recruitment: We are starting to look at census data as a way to track talent progress. For example, over the past three years, the Birmingham region has seen a 48% increase in workers between the ages of 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree. This is a measurement we can look at and use to support our ongoing image enhancement efforts that support talent recruitment.  

Talent Retention: We also measure how many people are coming here, what companies they are working for, and if we are retaining them. We have a retention program, OnBoard Birmingham, which targets early-career employees who possess a four-year degree and are working with regional companies in our in-demand industry sectors. The program exposes them to the community, peers in different industries, mentors, service, and leadership opportunities.  As we continue to see a rise in our four-year degree population of 25 – 34 year olds we want to make sure that we are creating an environment that encourages them to grow and stay. 

High School Graduation & Dropout Rates: One of the intended outcomes of the career academies and hands-on innovative learning programs in our secondary schools is to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates. We want students to take a more hands-on approach to learning and create an environment where they actually want to come to school, learn, and know that what they are learning directly applies to the next step of their life – being college and/or career-ready.  

Kindergarten Readiness: Right now the main measurement for Pre-K students is access. We are starting to shift to measuring the percentage of students who have access to Pre-K that are considered “ready” when they enter kindergarten.

Career-Ready: Industry credentialing, work keys assessment, and lower college remediation rates are all things we look at to determine career readiness.  Also, tracking the number of two and four year college graduates with degrees that are applicable to our target industry sectors is very important.  

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

Jackson: We are funded through the investments and dues of our investors. Our workforce programs are included within the overall budget of the organization. We also go after foundation funding–local and national-specifically targeted toward education and workforce outcomes. 

ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award is the first national grant we have received. But these grants are to support very specific programs, not for our organizational capacity. 

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

Jackson: Following best practices is a best practice! Research existing models, and put your own spin on it. Truly, that is one of the things that has helped me be successful. If you look through our Blueprint Birmingham Strategic Plan, it is littered with examples of programs from other areas. Our original version has the career academy model from Nashville and parent university model from Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

As far as lessons learned, remember to be patient and build relationships. Working to change education systems that have been in place for a long time doesn’t happen overnight. I really think school districts sometimes think that the business community’s efforts will be short-lived when it comes to engagement. That is sometimes why you get resistance in changing programs and processes within schools. But being persistent and consistent helps a lot.

In order to get the type of reform that the business community is looking for, you have to play in the arena. You need to be engaged with your local school board. You need to build relationships with your teachers and superintendents and allow them to have input.  But, most importantly, you have to clearly know the needs of industry and be able to communicate that to your education partners and community stakeholders.  

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. 

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

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Helping Health Care Workers Move Up the Career Ladder

Jessie Azrilian on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 

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.

Interview participants: 

  • Christopher Cooney, President & CEO
  • Alison Van Dam, Vice President of Marketing, Communication & Business Development
  • Christine Karavites, Senior Consultant

Awardee Spotlight

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. 

 

Tags: Big Goal, EAD, Economic Development, education, higher education, Lumina, Workforce Development

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Business-Friendly Tools Chambers Can Use to Support a College & Career-Ready Agenda

Jessie Azrilian on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 11:21:00 am 

As 48 states begin to implement new K-12 standards and assessments chambers are poised to bridge the education community with the needs of employers to prepare the future workforce to be competitive in a global economy.  In order to assist chambers at all levels of engagement the K-12 section of ACCE's online HERO information library features business-friendly resources related to next generation assessments and Common Core State Standards.  

College and Career Readiness
The Education and Workforce Development section of the HERO portal contains resources chambers can use to engage their communities across the whole cradle to career spectrum. The K-12 section of ACCE's online Chamberpedia 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. 

Common Core 101 & the Role of Business
Introductory resources to new standards and assessments include: a presentation for chambers and employers on Understanding Common Core Standards by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; a presentation by Tim Sheehy, President, Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce on Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards; and a Myth vs. Facts sheet prepared by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 

Next Generation Standards and Assessments - Tools & Resources for Chambers
Additional materials found in the College and Career Readiness section serve to showcase what is being done to raise the bar for the future workforce and offers tools from experts and chamber leaders on how to get involved. The section includes: 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 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.  

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 jazrilian@acce.org or hero@acce.org. Visit the EAD page to learn more information about the Education Attainment Division. Check out the Mentor Program to connect with chamber leaders with education and workforce development expertise or sign up to become a Mentor yourself!

*Note: you will need your ACCE login (jsmith) and password (EAD123) to access the links on this post and HERO resources. 

 



Tags: Chamberpedia, EAD, education, HERO, K-12

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Impacting Education: Where are the Resources?

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:17:00 am 

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. 

Examples

  • 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. 

Tags: EAD, education, Workforce Development

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The Case for Business Investment in Early Childhood Education

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 6:26:00 pm 

New study finds that virtually no one believes less should be done to support Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Okay, that's probably not that surprising. What might surprise you in First Five Years Fund's recently-released report is the widespread public, cross-sector, and bi-partisan support for investment in zero-to-five education. Specifically, the 800 voters surveyed for their report believe overwhelmingly that: 1) Early Education should be regarded as a national priority- second only to increasing economic prosperity and decreasing the tax burden; 2)Early child education and care must be more affordable; and 3) Congress needs to act NOW to increase access to excellent and affordable early education and childcare services.

On the heels of the survey's release a group of Chamber CEOs and business leaders gathered at the US Chamber last Wednesday to advocate on behalf of business investment in early child preparedness programs. Speaking at the gathering, Brian Maher, the retired chairman and CEO fo Maher Terminals and former chairman of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce was quoted in a Washington Post article saying: "If somebody had said to me about a decade ago...that I would one day be down here in Washington speaking on behalf of early chidlhood education, I would have thought they were on drugs." 

On drugs he was not. An evolving body of research and data showcases early education's astounding return on investment, and Maher joins a growing contingency of business and public sector leaders that have seen the connection between investment in a child's formative years as a direct investment in our future economy.  

For a synthesis of the wide array of early childhood initiatives chambers and business organizations are engaging in across the country, refer to the recently-released study by America's Promise Alliance and project ReadyNation, with support from ACCE: Championing Success: Business Organizations for Early Childhood Investments.
The report shows that at least one state chamber of commerce, large city chamber, or state business roundtable in 44 states has publicly supported early childhood policy initiatives. 

Numbers Don't Lie: Take a look to determine the potential impact of your investment. 

 

 




Tags: EAD, early childhood education, education

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