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At our annual meeting in March, Corporate Voices will be joined by three leadersImage of The Campaign to Fix the Debt for a lively discussion on the country’s debt crisis, the threat it poses to our global competitiveness and prosperity–and how U.S. companies must be involved in the solutions. The Campaign is a nonpartisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path. It has been busy mobilizing key communities–including many prominent business leaders–and individuals from a variety of social, economic and political perspectives who want to see elected officials step up to solve our nation’s enormous fiscal challenges.

Panelists will include:Image

  • Former U.S. Congressman Victor Fazio, who served for 20 years as a member of Congress, representing California’s 3rd District. During his tenure of distinguished public service, Hon. Fazio was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, serving as a subcommittee chairman or ranking member for 18 years. He was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Hon. Fazio is currently Senior Advisor at Corporate Voices’ member company, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
  • Former U.S. Congressman Jim Nussle represented the state of Iowa for 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before he served for President George W. Bush asImage the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. As the current president and chief operating officer of Growth Energy, a trade association made up of America ethanol companies and industry partners who are committed to the promise of growing America’s economy through renewable energy, Rep. Nussle focuses his efforts developing creative policy approaches and proactive grassroots advocacy.

The two will be moderated by Frank Micciche, Chief of Staff at Fix the Debt. Previously, Mr. Micciche worked at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP where he specialized in developing and implementing public policy strategies for clients working to help states and the federal government innovate in the area of health care – with a particular focus on the establishment of health insurance exchanges.

The Annual Meeting, themed Corporate Leadership Beyond the Workplace, will be held March 20-22, 2013, in Washington, DC. Register online today! Hotel reservations can be made at The Madison Hotel by calling 1.800.424.8577. Mention Corporate Voices’ room block to receive your discounted rate. If you have further questions, please email jshare@corporatevoices.org

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The day after: the time for political junkies, the everyday voter and the campaigns to debate which candidate “won,” who reached the undecided voters, and, of all things, Big Bird.    Lost in the sound bites and the spin is that the focus of last night’s debate was on the economy and  ways to get Americans back to work.  One solution that has support from both sides of the aisle are private and public partnerships that help American workers upgrade and expand their skills by balancing work and higher education.  As President Obama stated during the debate,

“ . . . And one of the things I suspect Governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges… here they’re partnering so that they’re designing training programs. And people who are going through them know that there’s a job waiting for them if they complete it.”

Small, medium and large businesses understand the need to make more strategic investments in their future and current human capital.  They are looking to higher education providers, including community colleges, to do just that: to build a skilled workforce with the credentials to meet the labor needs of their companies.  These companies, including Walmart, McDonald’s, Verizon and Pacific Gas & Electric, are committed to “growing their own” workforce and report strong outcomes not only for the business but the workers themselves and the surrounding communities.  To find out more about how these private and public partnerships are beneficial to getting Americans back to work, check out:  A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships.Image

At a time when national leaders are looking to America’s more than 1,200 community colleges to help fuel an economic transformation, a new report from our colleagues at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) spotlights both great opportunities and serious challenges ahead.

Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future details community college “student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job-market needs, and disconnections in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions.” Considering the national imperative to add 20 million postsecondary educated workers over the next 15 years, these are serious indictments for higher education institutions tasked with preparing a globally competitive workforce and ones to which employers look for the next generation of talent.

Corporate Voices for Working Families commends AACC and its 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges for recommending a new vision for America’s community colleges.  Our corporate partners share the commitment to “Reclaiming the American Dream”. To be sure, U.S. employers have much at stake in the success of community colleges and the students they are educating for the workforce of tomorrow. Moreover, employers can—indeed, must—be a part of the solution, by helping to ensure that college coursework aligns with the knowledge and skills they require of their new employees, and by helping working students juggle the demands of school and their job.

As part of its “Learn and Earn” micro business case study series, Corporate Voices has documented a range of best practice talent development partnerships between businesses and education providers – frequently community colleges.  These Learn and Earn models help bridge the skills gap for employers, while encouraging and/or supporting current and future employees’ attainment of postsecondary credentials with labor market value – the most significant benchmark for achieving economic sustainability. Learn and Earn partnerships also provide real returns for these leading companies.

For example, AREVA, a global company that provides services, fuel, and engineering support to nuclear plants worldwide, partners withCentralVirginiaCommunity College on an Employee Training Program that produces graduates with an Associate Degree in Nuclear Support Technology.  These highly skilled, high-wage positions make a significant contribution to the centralVirginia regional economy, and supply a high-quality, entry-level talent pipeline to the employer in a fairly rural region.

In another Learn and Earn model, Bright Horizons Family Solutions LLC, the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work/life solutions, created a blended e-training program to help teachers acquire a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Through the company’s partnership withNorthamptonCommunity College inPennsylvania, Bright Horizons’ 18,000 employees around the country can enroll in the college’s online associate degree program, and have 9 academic credits honored from the CDA toward an associate degree. For Bright Horizons, the program is a win-win: Not only has it increased the quality of early child care services provided at its centers, but the credential is also viewed as a major contributing factor in reducing the company’s employee turnover rate by more than 50 percent.

Education-and-business partnerships like these create a model for ways in which community colleges can meet student success targets in connection with their regional labor markets.  Corporate Voices’ publication, Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint, is a tool that helps guide the formation of these partnerships.  It is available at no charge on our website.

Corporate Voices agrees with AACC President and CEO, Walter Bumphus, who acknowledges that individual colleges have demonstrated success, but said, “We haven’t done a [great] job of replicating these practices across the country.”  Corporate Voices and its employer partners stand ready to join community colleges to replicate best practices like Learn and Earn, and support this initiative to “Reclaim the American Dream.”

Carrie Clark, a public policy analyst with WorldatWork, has contributed this post as Featured Guest Blogger. This is the second post in a Corporate Voices blog series exploring key themes discussed during the “Focus on Workplace Flexibility” national conference, held on November 29-30. This series aims to maintain the dialogue and forward momentum for expanding awareness about the positive business impacts of flexibility, how flexibility improves the lives of working families and what tools and resources exist to help employers implement flexibility policies and practices.

Working in the work-life field, even in a part-time capacity, the one undeniable fact you’re faced with is this: Demographic changes mean everything. The changes that are revolutionizing the way work is done can be traced back to the simple fact that the workforce of today does not look anything like the workforce of decades past. Many of these demographic changes were discussed at length at the “Focus on Workplace Flexibility” conference, but this article will only focus on two of those changes – the rising numbers of older workers and the increasing numbers of working caregivers.

As early as a few years ago, the issue of older workers was causing angst in human resources departments from coast to coast for an entirely different reason than it is today. In the beginning part of the decade conventional wisdom held that the problem caused by the large number of older workers was the looming shortage of institutional wisdom as Baby Boomers retired in droves. But that was before the Great Recession; now, workers are staying in the workforce in astounding numbers.

In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of workers aged 65 and over had increased 101 percent since 1977 and the number of workers aged 75 and over had increased an astounding 172 percent. These numbers are made even more incredible when you realize that they do not include the Baby Boom generation, which will start to reach 65 next year. The labor force participation rate of older workers has been rising steadily since the mid-1990s but the recession has affected them. Data out this week show that an additional 1.6 million people put off retiring due to the financial crisis and concerns about retirement savings.

What about caregivers? What does their picture look like in regards to the workforce? A report published by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving in November 2009  found that a full 29 percent of the U.S. population “provides care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spends an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.” That’s 65 million people caring for people of all ages (7 out of 10 caregivers report caring for a loved one aged 50+). Caregivers also report lower health outcomes for themselves and lower incomes overall.

These caregivers are working while providing care, and most report that it has had an impact on their job performance – 73 percent of family caregivers who care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while providing care, and 66 percent have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely.

So what does this all mean? Employers are still figuring that out, but it’s pretty clear that there are a myriad of positive benefits from offering flexibility programs aimed towards older workers and caregivers. A 2007 WorldatWork study found that workplace flexibility programs preferred by older workers (part-time schedules, job sharing, telecommuting, and phased retirement) had a moderate or high impact on the retention of all workers; some (telecommuting and part time schedules) even had a moderate or high impact on attraction. The same survey found that on-site child care programs and emergency back-up dependent care resources also had a moderate or high impact on retention.

As for the ROI case for these programs, I could give you many numbers, studies, reports, and statistics about the programs I’ve discussed above, but that would be doing a disservice to all the things I’ve learned. It’s imperative for the benefit of all workers to not think about work-life programs in a vacuum– as a solution to just this problem. Work-life programs need to be thought of as an overall portfolio of benefits. A great resource for helping companies start to think about their work-life portfolio is the Alliance for Work-Life Progress’s Categories of Work-Life booklet that describes, in detail and with business case bullets, the entire universe of work-life programs and their impact on your workforce as a whole, including older workers and caregivers.

October saw the largest increase in private sector job growth since April, according to a recent Financial Times article. The fact that the private sector added 159,000 jobs last month–beating expectations– should be an uplifting statistic for our economic recovery.

But last week’s jobs report also included more sobering numbers– not only did the unemployment rate remain at 9.6 percent, but the number of discouraged workers hit a record 1.2 million.

Discouraged workers are those that have become so pessimistic about their job prospects that they simply give up. They are not counted as unemployed (and thus not included in the unemployment rate), because they are no longer considered part of the labor force.

The existence of discouraged workers is significant, because it illustrates the hidden unemployment in America that is not reflected in the official unemployment rate. This also means that while October’s job growth is good news, we are still far from being out of the woods.

From the article:

“There’s much more confidence in hiring,” said Hilda Solis, U.S. labour secretary. But she added: “It’s not nearly enough. We have to keep the focus. Jobs have to be the number one priority.”

A related article in USA Today highlights another alarming statistic.

Workers 55 and older totaled 335,000, or 27.5 percent of all discouraged workers in October, the single-largest demographic group.

The decline of mature workers’ participation in the labor force is unfortunate– they often possess critical skills and experience of great value to employers.

One way that employers can encourage the participation of mature workers in the workforce is through workplace flexibility. Corporate Voices for Working Families believes that flexibility– from shift trading and flexible scheduling to telecommuting–is a key management strategy for the 21st century. When companies provide options to help workers manage work and life, morale and productivity increase, and businesses experience less turnover and a more engaged, productive workforce.

With workplace flexibility, employers can support their employees throughout all stages of life. Flexible workplaces support nursing mothers at work, encourage post-secondary and continuing education for working learners, and they can drive mature workers’ participation in the labor force.

Corporate Voices will continue to promote workplace flexibility as an innovative way the business community can harness key talent in the workforce- for the benefit of businesses, working families, and our nation’s economic prosperity.

By Sara Toland

Corporate Voices for Working Families has been following with great interest the recent media blitz focused directly on our country’s public education system through:

  • Target® announcing a contribution of $500 million to launch a nationwide reading initiative
  • The announcement that Facebook’s CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is donating $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey, public school system.

Why all the focus on the public education system?

Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (September 27, 2010) put it best when he said:

“problem [we are the] only remaining superpower in the world and we’re moving toward a third world education system . . . we are not in the top 10 [in education], not even the top 20 . . . need to do something dramatic.”

This direct tie between the quality of education our youth are receiving and our future global economic status is imperative for all citizens to understand.  A quality education not only develops young people intellectually but it serves as one of the crucial factors in ensuring achievements through post secondary work, employment and in life.  Superintendents from across the country agree as stated in a public manifesto (Washington Post, October 10, 2010):

“ . . .until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems.”

There is a serious education and skills gap in our country.  Corporate Voices for Working Families, along with national partners, produced research focused on employers’ perspectives of the education and skills gap and found that employers report that nearly half (42 percent) of high school graduates lack the skills they needed to make a successful transition to the workforce.  Even among those recent college graduates, employers say only 24 percent have an “excellent” grasp of basic knowledge and applied skills.

So what can be done to improve the education and talent development pipeline?

Many of the recent education events have spurred conversations nationally and locally on reforms that need to take place within schools, such as a stronger focus on hiring and retaining quality teachers – this debate and potential solutions is highlighted specifically in recent research by McKinsey and Company, an international consulting firm, released in September 2010.  Although attracting and retaining talented teachers is essential for the public school system to succeed, Corporate Voices and other national partners have been focusing on ways to improve supports for the future workforce both inside and outside of the K-12 education system through the development of private and public partnerships.

Corporate Voices, as a member of the Ready by 21® National Partnership, believes that all leaders  – nonprofit, government, business, foundation – in the community need to ensure that youth have the supports and engagement opportunities available in school and out of school in order to be ready for college, work and life.  It is essential that these local leaders develop community-wide vision and goals for youth and families that are focused on ensuring that there are no gaps in services and supports across the cradle to career education and workforce readiness pipeline.

In order to develop these goals and work closely together, the private and public leaders in the community must build partnerships.  Corporate Voices recently produced three items focused on building partnerships:

o      The most recently released report highlights best practice partnerships between employers and community colleges.  This paper explores the innovative collaborations between employers and community colleges, and finds that they can and do play a positive role in increasing workforce readiness skills and college completion rates.

o      The other released tool and webinar highlights business and education partnerships in the K-12 system.  This tool delves into the benefit of these partnerships, tips for engaging educators and business leaders, and a case study illustrating these partnerships in action.

o      Finally, a business engagement menu details the various opportunities for business leaders to get involved and build partnerships with community organizations.

Through our workforce readiness platform and our three main areas of work: Learn and Earn, Ready by 21 and Alternative Pathways for youth, Corporate Voices creates bridges between public and private entities ensuring that all stakeholders are coming together to find solutions that span the education and talent development pipeline from cradle to career to ensure the U.S. remains competitive.   As our national leaders focus on education and its impact on the economy, making sure that business and community leaders are partnering to produce a skilled and prepared workforce is essential.

 

Business leaders and educators share common goals and challenges; both manage large, complex operations and want to ensure that students graduate high school prepared with the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace or in further educational opportunities.  Collaboration between business and education leaders is imperative – these leaders should create meaningful, successful and long lasting partnerships to ensure that all youth are ready for college, work and life.

On Thursday, October 7, 2010, Corporate Voices for Working Families (Corporate Voices) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) held a webinar entitled, “Building Business and Education Partnerships Common Goals and Unique Strengths.”  The purpose of the webinar was to provide business and education leaders with reasons why they should partner and highlight the work of two leaders who have led successful private and public partnerships:  Alice Campbell, Senior Director, Global Community Relations at Baxter International Inc. (Baxter) and Dr. Jim Scales, Superintendent of Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee.

Baxter, a Corporate Voices Member Company, highlighted their Science@Work Program with Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  Campbell explained the reason Baxter partnered with CPS,

“It is critical to meet needs . . . you can be a good neighbor in many different ways . . . we are trying to address the education gap, specifically in Chicago.”

Science@Work is a multi-year commitment to CPS and represents the largest corporate donation to science education in the District’s history.   It is intended to create a pipeline of students and teachers with an interest and passion for science, with a focus on biotechnology.  Campbell revealed during the webinar that since the launch of this education/business partnership:

  • 56,000 students in CPS received at least one biotechnology lesson (86% of the students are Latino or African American); and
  • Collectively, 649 teachers in 213 schools participated in the program.

This partnership is a win-win for both Baxter and CPS.  Baxter learned the following lessons from this partnership:

  • Communication between the two entities is essential and should happen regularly and often;
  • There needs to be budget accountability from both partners;
  • Working together to evaluate progress and continual improvement is essential; and
  • Employees are excited to participate.

Corporate Voices and AASA support building broader and sustainable business and education partnerships through the work of the Ready by 21® National Partnership.  Through this collaboration, Corporate Voices and AASA produced the “Common Goals Unique Strengths Education and Business Partnerships” focused specifically on helping business and education leaders build and sustain partnerships.

Ready by 21 is a set of strategies that helps communities improve the odds that all youth are ready for college, work and life.  Corporate Voices in particular challenges business leaders to work with Ready by 21 to ensure American businesses have the skilled and prepared workforce they need to advance their global competitiveness.  For more information on the tools and resources provided by Corporate Voices through our Ready by 21 work, please click here.

*Ready by 21 and the Ready by 21 Logo are registered trademarks of the Forum for Youth Investment.

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