For the past several years, Corporate Voices for Working Families has identified and promoted innovative Learn and Earn partnerships across the country. These partnerships between business and education providers help bridge the skills gap for employers while encouraging and supporting current and future employees’ attainment of postsecondary credentials with labor market value – the most significant benchmark for achieving economic sustainability.

Not surprisingly, employers and educators are not the only entities in the Learn and Earn conversation.  There are multiple stakeholders committed to seeing our country “Reclaim the American Dream” as expressed in the recent report by the American Association of Community Colleges, a dream that begins with adequate and appropriate skills for success.  Private and corporate foundations also play a pivotal role in goal-setting, research, replication and implementation of programs of study aimed at dramatically boosting the number of young Americans completing a postsecondary credential in the next decade or so.

Next week, at Corporate Voices’ 2012 Annual Meeting, I will moderate a panel of influential foundation leaders will share their perspective on the importance of postsecondary completion. This dialogue will focus on the broad economic and workforce implications of postsecondary completion and its importance to the business sector. Moreover, it will serve as a ‘call to action’ to a broad spectrum of employers with an important message:  Foundations have laid substantial resources on the table to research and promote programs of study that support talent development.  It is now time for more employers to ‘get in the game,’ by committing to deep partnerships in these programs as well. The discussion will feature Dr. James Applegate, Vice President of the Lumina Foundation; Ellen Glazerman, President of the Ernst & Young Foundation; and Dr. Parminder Jassal, Program Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At the session, Corporate Voices will also release early findings from our comprehensive research on Learn and Earn best practices nationwide. The report, A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships, will provide employers with the practical knowledge and hands-on tools to develop partnerships of their own. Also documented will be the positive returns on investment companies can realize by investing in Learn and Earn initiatives. The benefits of successful programs redound not only to individual employees, but also to leading companies that are able to address a wide range of business imperatives by investing in the skills of their workforce.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success Strategy also focuses on developing more postsecondary graduates to meet the needs of tomorrow’s workforce. They create and finance programs throughout the educational pipeline – from cradle to retirement.

The Lumina Foundation is the nation’s largest private foundation whose mission is to “expand access and success in education beyond high school, particularly among adults, first-generation college going students, low-income students and students of color.” Lumina recognizes that over 60 percent of tomorrow’s jobs will require at least some form of higher education.

The Ernst & Young Foundation’s main focus is to provide support to higher education institutions, particularly for people pursuing a professional services career in business.

Corporate Voices is grateful to each of these organizations for the thought leadership they have brought to the broader field of workforce development and postsecondary completion.