On Thursday, February 11, 2011, Corporate Voices for Working Families’ Ready by 21 team facilitated a “peer learning” call with the Ready by 21 Southeast Communities on business engagement.  Corporate Voices provided an overview of its series of business and community tools, and in particular the Supporting the Education Pipeline:  Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations, focused on helping private and public leaders in communities build and sustain partnerships to strengthen the workforce readiness pipeline.  The communities on the call: Northern Kentucky; Richmond, Va., and Nashville, Tenn., shared successes and current challenges with engaging businesses.  The call spotlighted two issues these communities are facing that are not new or uncommon:

  • how to identify business leaders in their community-wide efforts
  • what role business partners may play

In terms of the best way to identify business leaders in community efforts, the Business Engagement Stakeholders Wheel: Identifying Business Leaders in Your Community proved to be particularly helpful during this call.  The Stakeholders Wheel provides communities with a listing of different business organizations and business leaders as potential partners.  Corporate Voices recommends reaching out through local business associations, such as the local chambers of commerce, Rotary Club, Lions Club and Kiwanis.

Corporate Voices’ Call to Action, Ready by 21 Business Engagement Menu: Increasing Communications Between Business and Community Leaders benefited the community leaders because some of them were looking to reengage business leaders in their efforts and they needed to brainstorm different roles and ways business leaders could contribute, beyond financial support.  The business engagement menu provides different categories and ideas for engagement: provide employee supports, be an intern sponsor or mentor, be peer-to-peer business champion, be an advocate for workforce readiness policies and be engaged through your company’s corporate social responsibility/philanthropy departments. In particular, the idea that community leaders could leverage the participation of a current business champion to recruit his/her peers into the work was very well received.

Another idea that specifically resonated with the local leaders was asking a business leader to provide an in-kind donation as a first step in building a partnership, such as meeting space for a community-wide meeting.

Like many communities, those on the call wanted some real tips and tools to utilize when looking to further strengthen their partnerships with business leaders to ultimately improve outcomes for all youth, especially those who are disconnected.  Through the Ready by 21 National Partnership, Corporate Voices continues to aide community leaders in ensuring that business is actively at the table helping to support the workforce readiness pipeline. Corporate Voices will soon be releasing a Community Engagement Toolkit for Business Leaders to assist business in cultivating relationships with community leaders, and a Survey Tool for community Leaders to assist them in surveying business leaders around their existing community engagement efforts.

Corporate Voices is a proud member of the Ready by 21 National Partnership, a group of national organizations working together to improve the odds that all youth will be ready for college, work and life.  For more information on Corporate Voices’ tools, or for questions on upcoming trainings, please contact the Ready by 21 team.