At a time when the nation’s economy is stalled, the unemployment rate won’t budge, and public dollars for critical education, training, and social services are constrained, communities across America are seeking innovative ways to spark economic growth and ensure a skilled workforce for tomorrow.

Corporate Voices for Working Families has published two new resources that offer valuable guidance for local officials, employers and others teaming up to support children, youth and working families in their communities.  Both publications will be the focus of discussion at a Corporate Voices’ panel during the National Council of La Raza Workforce Development Forum, in Chicago on October 11 and 12.

Opportunities in the Workforce Readiness Pipeline: A Community Engagement Toolkit for Business, is designed to assist business and local leaders in developing successful, sustainable partnerships to ensure that more young people in their communities have the highest-quality education and supports they need to be successful today, and as the workforce we will depend on tomorrow.  The toolkit reflects the expertise of United Way Worldwide and the Workforce Strategy Center, content partners in the publication.  It offers practical advice and hands-on steps to investing in community improvement, and features case studies from leading corporate citizens like KPMG LLP’s Family for Literacy program, Baxter International’s Science@Work program, and the Bridging Richmond initiative, supported by the Altria Group.

Building the Business Case for Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce, also new from Corporate Voices, similarly profiles private-sector commitments to support education and workforce training for lower-skilled employees, and documents the substantial payoff to companies that have done so. Case studies include CVS/Caremark, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital system.  Both CVS and KPMG executives will be featured panelists at the national La Raza conference on October 12.

“Our tools for community-business engagement address an urgent goal: Strengthening and expanding the most effective partnerships to ensure that more young people can step confidently into jobs leading to careers,” said John-Anthony Meza, Vice President of Workforce Readiness at Corporate Voices. “The nation’s prosperity depends more than ever on a well-prepared workforce, yet too many young Americans remain poorly equipped to excel in school today and in the economy of tomorrow.”

“Engaging the business community, nationally and locally, is a key aspect of ensuring that the nation’s young people are prepared for college, work and life. We are so pleased to partner with Corporate Voices on these tools to advance that important goal,” said Karen Pittman, President and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment.

These publications are the latest addition to a unique suite of tools offered by Corporate Voices, based on a decade of experience studying the workforce needs and expectations of employers nationwide.  Corporate Voices’ community-business engagement tools are produced through the Ready by 21® National Partnership, a team of national organizations committed to helping communities implement Ready by 21—a set of innovative strategies to improve the odds that all children and youth will be ready for college, work and life. The tools may be accessed on Corporate Voices’ website at www.cvworkingfamilies.org/our-work/workforce-readiness/ready-21/tools-resources-business-community-leaders.

 

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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.

By Tony Hurst, Program Associate, Corporate Voices for Working Families

In a recent blog, Nicole Yohalem, of the Forum for Youth Investment, described the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College which helps youth who have dropped out of high school earn a diploma and college credit concurrently. Gateway to College acknowledges that only two-thirds of high school students graduate, while only 20 percent of those who enter two-year institutions complete their degree within three years.

At Corporate Voices for Working Families, for example, we are working hard to address this national challenge and others related to the inadequate preparation of young adults to excel in the 21st century economy.  With support from the New Options Project from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are helping to engage the business community to identify and support alternative pathways to education and employment for disconnected young adults.

Gateway to College pairs 16-to-21 year olds with a mentor to guide them through the rigors of classroom expectations and study habits, through to college placement exams and career choices. The program began in 2000 and with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been replicated across the United States.

In a parallel effort, Corporate Voices, with the Forum for Youth Investment, is part of the Ready by 21® partnership, which works to prepare youth for college, work and life.  And with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Corporate Voices is continuing to bring the business perspective to the nation’s agenda for postsecondary completion—a critical prerequisite to ensuring a skilled talent pool for a competitive future.

To help employers learn about and share their best practices with each other, we have highlighted several companies in Learn and Earn Micro-Business Case Studies that are working with partners in the educational system to help future and current workers earn a wage while gaining a postsecondary credential.

One example is Georgia Power, which has reached out and partnered with local high schools to offer paid internships so that young people gain the necessary workplace skills. All graduates are eligible for full-time employment at Georgia Power and are much more prepared to enter college. The program has been so successful that its implementation has already begun in Ohio, North Carolina and Washington.

Additionally, UPS partnered with community members in Louisville, Kentucky, to create Metropolitan College in order to reduce their turnover rate that was as high as 70 percent in the late 1990s.  Metropolitan College provides employees an opportunity to earn college credit while still working. The results have been incredible, as turnover rates are now below 20 percent and many of these graduates have worked their way through various career pathways into a mixture of divisions within the company.

And finally, in a recently published report, From an “Ill-Prepared” to a Well Prepared Workforce, Corporate Voices acknowledges that there is a growing education and skills gap perpetuated by students leaving the education systems without the skills they need to succeed.

Through Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn initiative we work to highlight a variety of ways in which business and community college leaders can partner and work together to prepare the current and future workforce. Business and education must come together to begin a dialogue and examine best practices to ensure that young adults will have the proper skills to succeed in the 21st century job setting.

Both of these best-practice cases highlight companies that are initiating community partnerships to ensure they have a more skilled workforce.  Like Gateway to College, these companies value the importance of aiding their employees in furthering their post-secondary credentials and helping them to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed at work.  If you have a potential Learn and Earn case study, please contact Corporate Voices.

 

 

Corporate Voices for Working Families, through our workforce readiness initiatives, is helping young people succeed in school, on the job and throughout life.

And a new report issued by the Harvard Graduate School of Education addresses these issues and concludes that “rather than simply increase college enrollment, a comprehensive network of pathways to success must be created within the youth development field.”

A timely and informative article in Youth Today, “Even Harvard Agrees: Four-Year Colleges Aren’t for Everyone,” highlights the issues and the report:  Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.

Here’s from the Youth Today article by Ben Penn:

The one American college perhaps most synonymous with traditional postsecondary ideals has issued a report championing community colleges over four-year schools in order to transition youth into adulthood.

A Harvard University Graduate School of Education report concludes that rather than simply increase college enrollment, a comprehensive network of pathways to success must be created within the youth development field. In addition to encouraging initiatives away from the classroom, such as mentorship and internship programs, the report includes among the pathways associate degrees and vocational certificates offered at two-year schools as a major part of the package.

The authors identify a three-pronged approach:

  • School reform that embraces a broad variety of strategies to engage young people who may not be best suited to attend a four-year institution, including increased emphasis on career counseling during high school and higher quality career education beyond high school;
  • An increased role by business leaders at earlier stages in youth development, rather than providing jobs at graduation;
  • Creation of a social compact between young people and the rest of society – educators, employers and governments – with an exchange of expectations.

“Unless we are willing to provide more flexibility and choice in the last two years of high school, and more opportunities for students to pursue program options that link work and learning, we will continue to lose far too many young people along the path to graduation,” said Robert Schwartz, who headed up this report as academic dean and professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

This report informs Corporate Voices’ workforce readiness platform and three main areas of work: Ready by 21, Learn and Earn and alternative pathways for youth, the New Options Project.  Through this work, 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 to make certain that young people succeed in school, on the job and throughout life and that the United States remains competitive in what is a complex and challenging global economy.

 

 

By Sara Toland

Sara is Senior Manager, Workforce Readiness, Business and Community Engagement with Corporate Voices for Working Families.

A recent study of more than 2,300 undergraduate college students found that 45 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college. Released by The Social Science Research Council the book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, and accompanying report, finds that colleges are not challenging students academically.  More specifically,

  • 36 percent of students demonstrated no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication over all four years of college.
  • Half of students did not take a course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester.
  • One-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

A comprehensive and informative discussion on this study and the issues of educational attainment and the skills necessary to succeed in today’s workplace is featured in this New York Times blog post “Does College Make You Smarter?

And while few can argue with the need for high educational standards and academic rigor, the study doesn’t focus on one critical reality that faces many college students today: the need to work while attending classes.

This is particularly true for students attending community colleges where fully 84 percent of students under age 24 worked during the 2007-2008 school year.

And while the “Academically Adrift” study highlights an important issue.  employers have expressed concern over the lack of workforce readiness among entry-level workers for quite some time.

In fact, the gap between employers’ needs and workers’ skills is an ongoing “call to arms” from the business community that has not abated even in current economic conditions. A 2006 report compiled through surveys of business leaders found that among those new hires with a recent college degree, employers say only 24 percent have an “excellent” grasp of basic knowledge and applied skills.  What they lack, say employers, are basic skills such as reading comprehension, writing and math, as well as important applied skills such as work ethic and professionalism.

Business leaders also report that high school graduates are even less prepared for work than college graduates.  The same skills needed to achieve in higher education, are also needed when working.  While colleges and universities want to apply academic rigor, they are faced with incoming students unprepared for heavy course loads and stuck with offering more remedial classes.

Because these students are not prepared for work, according to a recent brief and blog post released by Corporate Voices for Working Families,

“97 percent of the business leaders surveyed agree that workforce readiness is a critical business imperative.  They are deeply concerned about their future workforce and the cost of providing training to a generation of ill-prepared workers.  Furthermore, these leaders report it is imperative that top decision makers focus on workforce readiness and the talent development pipeline as a critical investment in their future productivity – not an additional expense.”

Employers in need of better prepared workers and educational systems that do not  produce an adequate supply of appropriately skilled graduates have been on a collision course, creating a growing skills gap in the marketplace. Corporate Voices, in partnership with our member companies is finding that in order to get college graduates ready for the workforce, business and higher education must collaborate.  When businesses work with education to create opportunities for students to advance academically and in their careers, employers, colleges, and individuals can all succeed.

Corporate Voices for Working Families has published a report, entitled, From an ‘Ill-Prepared’ to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate to discuss the imperative for collaborations between industry and community colleges. The paper also highlights promising practices in employer and community college partnerships, and recommends a set of public and private policies to support the growth of these partnerships in the future.

Corporate Voices is committed to identifying and spotlighting businesses that make significant contributions to postsecondary completion through progressive talent development practices that increase access to career opportunities through education and training through a series of Learn and Earn Micro-Business Case Studies.  Nine companies have been highlighted to date and they include CVS Caremark, Expeditors, Verizon Wireless and most recently, Convergys.  If your company has a potential Learn and Earn Micro-Business Case Study, please contact Corporate Voices.

 

 

 


By Sara Toland

Sara is Senior Manager, Workforce Readiness/Business and Community Engagement with Corporate Voices for Working Families. She posts regularly on this blog.

Corporate Voices for Working Families has released a report titled “What Are Business Leaders Saying About Workforce Readiness?”.  The report offers an in-depth analysis of a recent series of surveys and focus groups conducted with 150 American business leaders.

The report (see previous blog post “What Are Business Leaders Saying About Workforce Readiness?”) highlights the fact that 97 percent of the business leaders surveyed agree that workforce readiness is a critical business imperative.  They are deeply concerned about their future workforce and the cost of providing training to a generation of ill-prepared workers.  Furthermore, these leaders report it is imperative that top decision makers focus on workforce readiness and the talent development pipeline as a critical investment in their future productivity – not an additional expense.

“The skills gap affecting our businesses and communities today is recognized by both employers and the general public.  This recently released report is exciting because it builds on recent poll findings, conducted by Public Policy Polling, through the generous support of our member company, Workplace Options, Inc., that the general public agrees with employers – approximately 56 percent feel that more than a quarter of the nation’s youth do not possess the skills they need to be prepared for work” stated Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices.

To help better prepare their future workforce, many businesses reported to have entered into community-wide partnerships.  Business leaders hope they can bring important private sector expertise and offer valuable assets to community organizations, including leadership, advocacy, infrastructure support and financial contributions.  But these same leaders report frequent challenges and frustrations in engaging and sustaining community partnerships, including:

  • Lack of data delivered in a way to show the story of investments and the direct impact on youth and families;
  • Frequency of duplicate conversations with community partners;
  • Lack of transparency in the partnership from the community organization; and
  • Lack of firm and measurable outcomes.

This report informs Corporate Voices’ workforce readiness platform and three main areas of work: Ready by 21, Learn and Earn and Alternative Pathways for youth.  Through this work, 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 make certain that youth are ready for work and the U.S. remains competitive.

 

 

The future of American business competitiveness is directly tied to the quality and skills of the current and incoming workforce.  But many entry level employees are transitioning from school to the workforce without the skills needed to succeed at work.  Corporate Voices for Working Families conducted a series of surveys and focus groups to gain a better understanding of business leaders’ current level of engagement and interest in supporting the work readiness of their future employees.  These surveys were analyzed and compiled into the “What Are Business Leaders Saying About Workforce Readiness?” brief released today.

According to these survey results, 97 percent of the 150 surveyed business leaders agree that their organization considers workforce readiness a critical business imperative.  These leaders are deeply concerned about their future workforce and the cost of providing training to a generation of workers they view as ill-prepared for the demands on the job.  As a result, these leaders report it is imperative that the top decision makers in their organization focus on workforce readiness and the talent development pipeline as a critical investment in their future productivity – not an additional expanse.

To help prepare their future workers, many businesses reported that they are involved in a variety of community-wide partnerships.  Business leaders believe they can bring important private sector expertise to community partnerships and can offer valuable assets, including leadership, advocacy, infrastructure support and financial contributions, but reported frequent challenges and frustrations in engaging and sustaining community partnerships, including:

  • Lack of data delivered in a way to show the story of investments and the direct impact on youth and families;
  • Frequency of duplicate conversations with community partners;
  • Lack of transparency in the partnership from the community organization; and
  • Lack of firm and measurable outcomes.

Through the work of Ready by 21 National Partnership, Corporate Voices works to build a bridge between private and public sector leaders to establish and sustain partnerships focused on preparing future workers. These cross-sector leaders must work together to strengthen the talent development pipeline by creating comprehensive, coordinated and integrated system of learning and development that provides a range of opportunities for youth to succeed throughout school and into their working lives.  Corporate Voices, along with Ready by 21 national partners, have created a variety of tools and briefs for both community and business leaders to utilize in order to build and sustain relationships to create a stronger pool of workers.  These tools include the release of the Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations which will assist community leaders in creating beneficial and sustainable partnerships with business by providing lessons on how to identify potential partners, set realistic goals and how to establish partnerships for long-term success.