Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce

On September 17, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Education and Workforce Program hosted Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce, a summit focused on the roles that business, education, and workforce development leaders can play in improving education outcomes and increasing the number of people who are college and career ready.

Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Foundation and former U.S. Secretary of Education, emphasized the need to ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and career. She cited the three million jobs left unfilled and the lack of a skilled workforce to fill these positions. She explained that the business community has a lot at stake and needs to be at the table in discussions about how to better prepare the workforce.

Representatives of education initiatives at some of the largest employers in the country—Carlos Contreras of Intel Corporation, Patrick McCarthy of ExxonMobil Foundation, and Renee Patton of Cisco—voiced support for the Common Core State Standards as a potential force in creating a more skilled workforce. These panelists spoke of their companies’ investments in education, particularly in support of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure that the education system produces a higher-skilled workforce better able to meet the demands of today and, more importantly, tomorrow. Other chamber and business leaders acknowledged the existing skills gap and outlined some of their initiatives to address these gaps.

Speakers also focused on the role governors can play in emphasizing that education reform is a critical economic driver. Governor Bill Haslam from Tennessee outlined five strategies that have supported educational improvement in his state: 1) bipartisan effort to change, 2) redefining proficiency standards, 3) recruitment of great leaders, 4) legislative change, and 5) focus on funding. Governor Haslam indicated that businesses in Tennessee expressed concern about the talent pool and the imperative to ensure that the state improve the educational outcomes of its citizens.

Richard Laine, director of the education division at the National Governors Association, shared information about the America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs initiative. Laine explained that this initiative led by Governor Mary Fallin from Oklahoma, chair of the NGA, is designed to “help states build an integrated education pipeline aimed at preparing more students and adults for success in the workforce.” The initiative aims to draw together business, government, and education leaders; to provide state-specific return on investment information for increasing education outcomes; to inform governors about what works (and what does not); and to gather six to eight states to work together on alignment.

The closing panel highlighted the following leaders from around the country who shared their perspectives on improving local education systems and developing partnerships to support these initiatives:

Panelists spoke of the value of postsecondary education, the need to motivate the public to action, the urgency to adapt the education system to workforce demands, and the imperative to get started immediately. Videos detailing these initiatives—and others from around the country—are available on the Profiles of Change website.

View the archived webcast of the Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce summit online.

Chad Duhon is a Senior Researcher for the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research.

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