Domestic policy was front and center during the first State of the Union Address of President Obama’s second term. The captitolPresident spent most of his speech calling for tax and entitlement reform, spending on education and energy, gun control and immigration reform. One item of particular importance to Corporate Voices and its partner companies was the President’s call for linking education with the demands of an evolving skills-based workforce.

He highlighted the need for America to redesign its high schools to improve the link between education and the skills employers are looking for. After noting that German students graduate from high  school with the equivalent of a technical degree from a U.S. community college, the President praised the work CorporatIBMe Voices’ partner company IBM is doing through its Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). P-TECH is a grade 9 through 14 school that produces students with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in technology.  The curriculum was developed in close collaboration with the New York public schools, the City University of New York and IBM, to provide students with the skills required for entry-level positions at IBM.

Calling on others to follow suit, President Obama promised the Department of Education will create incentives for schools that form new partnerships with colleges or employers, or develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes geared toward high-tech jobs. Corporate Voices is already highlighting many of these partnerships and success stories through its Learn and Earn initiative and its work with Year Up in the New Options Project.

The 113th Congress will soon begin to sort through issues such as reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Corporate Voices is well positioned to offer the business case on why partnerships such as P-TECH succeed and are necessary for helping to ensure our nation’s young adults are prepared with the skills needed in the 21st-century workforce. In collaboration with Year Up, Corporate Voices has already distributed a list of its policy priorities for the 113th Congress.

If you are a Corporate Voices member company and want to lend your voice to shaping education and workforce policy by joining the Corporate Voices Public Policy Task Force, please contact Nathan Constable (nconstable@corporatevoices.org). We hope to hold the first policy call in March following the 2013 Annual Partners Meeting.

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Despite sustained high unemployment, more than two-thirds of employers report difficulties filling job vacancies because applicants lack critical skills and experience.  Some innovative companies have developed strategies to help close the skills gap and build a talent pipeline to fulfill their needs and strengthen the American economy.  For several years, Corporate Voices for Working Families (Corporate Voices) has been at the forefront of this work, collaborating with companies to help them meet their talent development goals by developing enterprising employment pathway opportunities for untapped talent – a population of 6 million young adults’ ages 16-24 not connected to school or work.

Last week, at Corporate Voices’ Annual Meeting, we celebrated the commitments of 18 of our partner companies through Summer Jobs Plus.  President Obama joined with the White House Council for Community Solutions and his Department of Labor to launch the Summer Jobs Plus initiative earlier this year, and he challenged employers to commit to provide some kind of pathway to employment for these young adults in summer 2012 and beyond.

Our partners join a total of 95 organizations and companies who have responded to Presidential challenge.  The White House recently announced the commitments of 110,000 new summer jobs for a total of nearly 300,000 employment opportunities.  These opportunities include 90,000 paid jobs and thousands of mentorships, internships and other training opportunities.

We believe there is an opportunity now to ensure that these commitments are just the beginning of a transformation in the relationship between employers and “disconnected” young adults.   While 300,000 employment opportunities is a good start, we need far more employers to provide a range of opportunities including internships, job shadowing, mentoring, summer and year round employment so that young adults develop the skills and have the experiences necessary to prepare them for career path employment and business’ meet their talent development goals.

For more information on how your company can make a commitment through Summer Jobs Plus, learn more about employment pathways, and join the stellar group of companies, please contact Elyse Rosenblum at erosenblum@corporatevoices.org or visit www.dol.gov/summerjobs/.

Corporate Voices’ Summer Jobs Plus Partner Commitments:

  • Baxter International Inc.
  • Bank of America
  • Bright Horizons Family Solutions
  • CVS Caremark
  • Deloitte
  • Expeditors
  • Gap Inc.
  • Goodwill Industries International
  • H-E-B Grocery Company
  • Innovate+Educate/New Options NewMexico
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • Southwire Company
  • Workforce.io/New Options Baltimore
  • Year Up

Health Careers CollaborativeFor more than a decade, Corporate Voices has provided leading best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families, while strengthening our nation’s economy.  Many employers accomplish this by supporting the educational attainment of current and future employees.  In order to ensure that individuals have the skills to succeed in the workplace and are on education and career pathways to earning family sustaining wages, employers often partner with community colleges in Learn and Earn models of talent development.

Each week, in an effort to highlight these best practice models, Corporate Voices will spotlight a distinct Learn and Earn partnership between a business and community college. This week, we are pleased to highlight the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati.

The Health Careers Collaborative (HCC) of Greater Cincinnati is a business-led consortium providing area hospitals with skilled, credentialed, loyal and diverse workers, while providing entry-level workers with educational opportunities tied to career mobility.  At the consortium’s foundation is a partnership between Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and local healthcare employers, including UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and TriHealth. HCC successfully created a career pathway with multiple entrance and exit points for incumbent, low-skilled and entry-level hospital workers to advance. The pathway also allows for unemployed and disadvantaged individuals to complete education and training programs that will position them to fill vacancies at the entry-level as incumbent workers advance.

To date, 3,000 credentials have been earned by participants, and one employer calculated an 11.9% return on investment for its participation in the collaborative.  The key to this successful model, according to the employers, is that it is business-led and that the community college and community organizations are willing and trustworthy partners.

On Wednesday, February 22, U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis and Dr. Jill Biden visited HCC as part of a three-day “Community College to Career” bus tour to highlight innovative industry initiatives that are helping train students with the skills they need to meet area workforce needs. The bus tour and visit to HCC follow President Obama’s recent announcement of an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, co-administered by the Department of Labor and Department of Education,which will help forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers with skills that will lead directly to jobs.

For more information on HCC, please read the Learn and Earn micro-business case, or check Corporate Voices’ most recent tool,Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint.

goodwillEach week, Corporate Voices will be highlighting the commitments of its member and partner companies to Summer Jobs Plus, a new Presidential call-to-action for businesses, nonprofits and government to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012.

Corporate Voices’ partner company, Goodwill Industries International is proud to be one of the first organizations to support the Summer Jobs Plus program. Through Goodwill’s unique social enterprise business model, it creates employment and job training. This year, the organization will expand services for youth at the beginning of their careers. Goodwill is committed to hiring 1,200 youth ages 16-26, provide more than 3,200 youth with life skill services and provide over 2,300 youth with work skills services. Almost 2,000 youth will be engaged in learn and earn services. Thousands more will be provided virtual career mentoring and exploration services.

To learn more about fellow member companies committed to this effort, check out the new section on our website devoted to Summer Jobs Plus! To find out how your company can join this in this effort, build on your existing initiatives and make a commitment, please visit www.dol.gov/summerjobs/employers.htm.

On Monday, February 13, 2012, President Obama released his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Budget. While the president’s Budget is effectively a blueprint for the next fiscal year, it also offers an early glimpse of his administration’s key priorities for both tax policy and government spending, and sets the stage for his reelection themes. Ultimately, the president’s budget proposal must traverse the divided legislative branch and its toxic atmosphere–thus, rendering another presidential Budget “dead on arrival”.

With that said, a clear picture of President Obama’s election year priorities emerges from the 2013 Budget. Corporate Voices applauds the administration’s focus on building the skills of American workers through several key proposals.  The Pathways Back to Work Fund, for example, includes continued support of the Workforce Innovation Fund, that, paired with broader waiver authority, will encourage States, regions, and localities to break down barriers among programs, test new ideas, and replicate proven strategies for delivering bet­ter employment and education results in a more cost-effective way. Similarly, the Budget also proposes a new Community College to Career Fund, an $8 billion initiative designed to improve access to job training across the nation by supporting State and community college partnerships with businesses to build the skills of American workers. For more on the proposal, please see this White House summary.

Building on its community college focus, the president’s budget also includes funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAA CCCT) program, to help community colleges—partnering with employers and local workforce boards–improve and expand their programs to meet local and regional labor market demands. Through rigorous evaluation, data collection, and greater use of employer collaboration and online learning, the program will help colleges advance approaches that will produce the greatest returns for their students.

In the arena of tax policy, Corporate Voices is pleased to see that the Budget permanently extends expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that were passed in the Recovery Act and continued as part of the bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act that the President negotiated and signed into law in December of 2010.

While the likelihood of President Obama’s FY 2013 Budget passing through Congress as it stands is very slim, Corporate Voices is encouraged to see an emphasis on building partnerships between community colleges and employers and replicating innovative training programs that produce results and help to improve the lives of America’s working families.

Corporate Voices and a number of our partner companies played a key role in a White House event  held January 5 to launch the Summer Jobs Plus Initiative.

“Corporate Voices for Working Families supports the Obama administration in launching the Summer Jobs Plus initiative, which recognizes that there are a number of ways that employers can provide pathways to success for our nation’s low-income young adults, including Life Skills, Work Skills and Learn and Earn initiatives along with summer jobs,” said Stephen M. Wing, who represented Corporate Voices.

Wing made his remarks as part of the White House Summer Jobs Plus Summit. He participated on a panel that explored the moral imperative, economic need and potential value of connecting low-income and disconnected youth to employment opportunities, both in the short and long term. The panel, titled “The Case for Summer Jobs+ 2012,” consisted of Alan Krueger, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers; Alma Powell, America’s Promise Alliance; James White, CEO, Jamba Juice; R.T. Rybak, Mayor, Minneapolis, MN; Janet Murguia, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza; and John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises/ White House Council for Community Solutions.

The event marked the launch of President Obama’s challenge to businesses to commit to provide low-income youth with summer employment and other pathways to success. Recognizing that in a difficult economy not every business is in a position to hire, the administration’s new Summer Jobs Plus initiative will support not only businesses that hire youth, but also those companies that provide additional pathways for youth, such as internships, mentoring and other programs.  Summer Jobs Plus identifies three key ways for companies to help connect youth to a better future while simultaneously deriving benefits for their businesses, such as increased employee engagement, customer loyalty and employee retention.

Businesses can accept the president’s challenge and make a “Pathways Pledge” by choosing at least one of the following three pathways to employment for low-income youth: Life Skills, Work Skills and Learn and Earn.

Corporate Voices’ Senior Workforce Readiness Consultant, Elyse Rosenblum, served as a content expert at one of the featured breakout sessions: “Creating Pathways to Employment for Youth.

“More than five million young people in the United States are disconnected from education and employment,” Rosenblum said. “Corporate Voices is encouraged that the Obama administration has brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to find solutions that will enable young people to succeed, help employers tap new sources of skilled talent and strengthen our nation’s economic prosperity.”

A number of businesses committed to providing our nation’s young adults with jobs, internships and other pathways to opportunity, including the following Corporate Voices’ partner companies: Bank of America, Baxter International, Inc., CVS Caremark, Deloitte, Goodwill Industries International, H-E-B, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.

Over the last five years, Corporate Voices, in partnership with the New Options Project, and with support from the WK Kellogg Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been deeply focused on ways companies can provide low-income young adults with pathways to employment and education.

Most recently, Corporate Voices has worked with Gap Inc. and McKinsey by providing content and information for a toolkit being released today by the Corporation for National Service. The toolkit provides employers with a roadmap for how they can use different strategies, such as Life Skills, Work Skills and Learn and Earn initiatives to provide opportunities to America’s young adults. The toolkit entitled “A Toolkit for Employers: Connecting Youth & Business” is available at no cost and can be accessed here