Communities: New Talent Hubs are leading the way
Talent Hubs

Communities: New Talent Hubs are leading the way

A few weeks ago, seven new communities were designated as Talent Hubs — earned by meeting rigorous standards for creating environments that attract, retain and cultivate talent — and already they are leading by example. All Talent Hubs must demonstrate prior success in working collaboratively to improve credential completion and attainment.

Talent Hubs focus on scaling what works, improving upon early successes, and deepening effective partnerships with institutions, employers, nonprofit providers, and other stakeholders in their communities.

We have taken a deeper look into what is already working well in our newest Talent Hubs:

1. Commitment with Action: Talent Hubs, like many communities and states, have set ambitious postsecondary attainment goals. This commitment is mobilized by specific plans for action, turning aspiration into achievement.

In St. Louis, over 100 regional partners have committed to producing 65,000 additional postsecondary credentials by 2025. St. Louis Graduates supports the unique actions taken by all of these stakeholders and drives a collective agenda to eliminate deep disparities in education outcomes among African-Americans in the city.

Six hundred miles south, a similar community collaborative can be found in Mobile, Alabama. The community came together in 2015 to establish a bold attainment goal called the 75,000 Degrees Blueprint. Led by the Mobile Area Education Foundation and five institutions of higher education, their work will produce an additional 10,000 credentials by 2020. Rather than pursue isolated strategies, all five higher education partners have organized around three major strategies: 1) connecting students to sufficient and flexible financial aid; 2) providing just-in-time academic supports in and out of the classroom; and 3) achieving systems change in equity and completion through policy and practice reform backed by rigorous research.

In both cases, partners have set aside their own organization’s priorities to embrace shared accountability.

2. Mobilizing the Entire Ecosystem: Increasing postsecondary attainment is difficult work. Talent Hubs are experts at stitching together strategies from local partners, creating a navigable and equitable education ecosystem.

Corpus Christi, Texas, knows that economic prosperity is tied to their local talent pool. Employers in the region have called for specific, high-quality training programs that lead students to a new or better job in the current economy. Del Mar College, the local community college, is scaling programs aligned with employer needs. Building on the success of a Pipeline Fabrication program boasting 100 percent employment, Del Mar is launching new “Fast Track” programs, including Construction Technology. Even with clearly defined pathways, learners can still get off track, encounter obstacles, and require additional services to complete their education. Citizens for Educational Excellence steps into this void, supporting students through a one-stop center located in the La Palmera shopping mall. These are not organizations collaborating with each other; this is a community that has created comprehensive strategies that drive talent development for their region.

Connecting employers and education providers is critical for places like Elkhart County, Indiana, where 56 percent of adults have no postsecondary experience and 19 percent do not have a high school diploma. Dominated by manufacturing, Elkhart County was the nation’s poster child for the changing economy during the Great Recession. At its height, unemployment in Elkhartreached 20 percent, the highest in the country. Currently, the region is at, essentially, full employment — jobs are going unfilled due to skilled labor shortages.

The Elkhart County Talent Hub, led by Horizon Education Alliance, is scaling paths to industry credentials that connect to further credentials, giving adults without education after high school a long-term plan for educational success with multiple off-ramps. These education pathways closely parallel career ladders within specific industries, and in some cases are directly tied to employers like Benteler Automotive. Further, to make sure adults can access these courses, employers and Ivy Tech Community College have partnered to offer certificate programs at the learner’s workplace, using both industry know-how and faculty expertise.

3. State Policy Alignment and Implementation: Communities can do a lot when they come together, and can thrive when state policy conditions support their work.

Nevada’s recently established State Office of Career Technical Education ensures that young adults are qualified to fill high-demand jobs in business and industry. The Las Vegas Talent Hub, led by the United Way of Southern Nevada, is leveraging the state and federal funds directed by this new agency to rapidly expand successful apprenticeships. Working closely with their K-12 district partners and the College of Southern Nevada, students building skills in work-based learning can begin to earn credentials while in high school that stack into degrees.

Texas has also taken steps to help students complete a college credential. Currently, students who earn some college credit in high school can transfer that credit directly to a Texas university. Yet some of these students never enroll in college and of those who do, thousands stop-out before earning a credential. To respond, Texas has created an opt-in mechanism that allows students to reverse transfer to another institution, retain the credit they have previously earned, and complete a credential rather than stopping out completely.

The leaders at Rio Grande Valley FOCUS have stepped into supplement this new policy, supporting the many students who are unaware and did not have the chance to opt-in. By raising awareness, providing advising support, and working with campuses to capture the thousands of students who stopped out of college early, RGV FOCUS is driving more students to a state-wide policy that benefits them.

No two cities are alike, but they all have a story to tell. These Talent Hubs have been designated to tell that story, share these successful practices and policies, and lead a movement of local action to create the talent they will need to thrive.

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