At the Corporate Voices’ Annual Meeting in May 2010, Louisville leaders presented a panel entitled, The Workforce Readiness Pipeline: K-12 Education and Business Partnerships Panel.  Shortly after the Annual Meeting, on May 13, the education, business, faith, civic and community leaders of Louisville convened and signed onto a Joint Commitment to Improve Education Attainment.

The goal of the commitment is to move Louisville, a Ready by 21® city,  into the top tier among its peer cities by raising education attainment so that by 2010 at least 40% of working-age adults hold a bachelor’s degree and 10% an associates degree.  To achieve this goal requires adding at least 40,000 more bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 more associates degrees.

Simultaneously America’s Promise Alliance, a member of the Ready by 21 National Partnership, awarded Louisville with a business engagement grant.  On June 9, Greater Louisville Inc. (Louisville Chamber), utilizing the award from America’s Promise Alliance, convened business leaders and released an IQS report, entitled Community Perceptions of Higher Education How Does Greater Louisville Perceive the Value of College?.  At this convening Karen Pittman, the President and Co-Founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, and other influential speakers, challenged business leaders to become involved in the commitment to increase the educational attainment of the community.

The report surveyed both adults and students regarding community perceptions of the value of a college education and the obstacles facing potential students.  Through this report, Louisville found that “98% of students surveyed indicated that they intend to go to college after completing high school.”

However, the survey report found two main and consistent obstacles for why students and adults do not complete and receive a college degree:  paying for college and balancing the demands of college with their own lives.

Louisville continues to implement cutting-edge programs and ideas to ensure that employers are attracted to Louisville and that their citizens can fill the jobs.   For instance, Corporate Voices recently highlighted the UPS/Metro College partnership as a part of the postsecondary completion work Corporate Voices is accomplishing under a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Corporate Voices is identifying promising practices in employer-led talent development that supports low-income young adults in the completion of a postsecondary credentials with labor market value.  UPS is one of the “Earn and Learn” models that exemplifies ways in which employers are creating support systems that encourage educational attainment.  A “micro-case” description of the UPS model is available on the Corporate Voices’ website.

Other leading-edge programs, include Corridors of Opportunity in Louisville (COOL); since 2003, COOL, a retail-focused economic development program, has attracted at least 400 businesses to the Louisville area.  Officials survey residents on the needs in the area and analyze sales data for “retail” gaps in the community.  Then they recruit businesses to the open shops in the locations identified.  The government entities help out these businesses by offering a series of incentives, including assistance in finding a site, acquiring funding/loans, and sprucing up the areas surrounding the shops.

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson states,

“It’s worked exceptionally well.  It’s given us an opportunity not only to fill the strip shopping centers, but to bring the kind of neighborhood economic development that enhances the quality of life for citizens.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families continues to be engaged in the work with Louisville through workforce readiness and looks forward to highlighting their work in the future.

Following are links to reports and other information highlighted in this blog post:

Community Perceptions Report

http://www.greaterlouisville.com/ed/files/CommunityPerceptionsOfHigherEducation.pdf

Corridors of Opportunity in Louisville (COOL).

http://www.governing.com/blogs/bfc/louisvilles-approach-growing-jobs.html