To help address our country’s stubborn income inequality, we need to better equip residents with the education and skills needed to access quality jobs and partake in the local economy.
By most measures, we can be doing a better job: 43% of our nation’s job openings require a Bachelor’s degree or more, yet only 30% of Americans have those credentials. And among Latinos – the country’s fastest growing demographic – only 15% meet these requirements. Similarly, as we entered 2014, 11 million Americans were unemployed, while 4 million jobs remained unfilled.
Officials, experts, business owners and community organizations have all struggled to answer the question of what it takes to effectively prepare low-income adults for quality 21st century jobs. Still, most do generally agree that the staggering gap between unemployed Americans and unfilled jobs exists because today’s workforce development efforts and programs are limited in scope and duration.
While the task of developing a pipeline connecting low-income working-age adults to quality jobs at scale may sound daunting, StriveTogether and Living Cities have both been learning about the promising Collective Impact approach of aligning cross-sector leaders around a common goal to transform the systems that produce these uneven results.
The Cradle-to-Career & Collective Impact Movements
Six years ago, the StriveTogether network launched with the goal of supporting every child from cradle to career through communities across the country. Through pioneering a Collective Impact framework for building data-driven and results-oriented cross-sector partnerships, StriveTogether has since expanded into over 50 communities while continuously refining their rigorous approach.
At the same time, Living Cities has similarly been learning about what it takes to transform systems to catalyze enduring change, rather than focusing on programmatic fixes to the symptoms of broken systems. Through our support of The Integration Initiative, Working Cities Challenge, and the StriveTogether Network, we’ve seen the promise of applying Collective Impact principles to tackle the complex and seemingly intractable problems facing U.S. cities.
To build on these successes and strengthen the career-end of the cradle-to-career continuum, StriveTogether and Living Cities are partnering to launch the Prepare Learning Circle, a Collective Impact initiative to support communities in driving collaboration around workforce development and employment outcomes in U.S. cities. Only by engaging leaders from all the sectors that form the workforce and employment system - private employers, non-profit community-based training providers, higher education institutions, philanthropy, and public sector workforce investments boards, for example – will we be able to transform the systems that prepare working-age adults for quality jobs.
5 members of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network were selected to participate in this effort:
- Thrive Chicago in Chicago, Ill.;
- All Hands Raised in Portland, Ore.;
- Mission: Graduate in Albuquerque, N.M.;
- Big Goal Collaborative in Northeast Indiana; and
- StrivePartnership, along with Partners for a Competitive Workforce, in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
Each community will receive a $60,000 grant over two years to strengthen their Collective Impact efforts in workforce development and career readiness. Prepare communities will also receive strategic assistance from the StriveTogether team and national experts in workforce development, as well as engage with peers focused on similar work to capture and share emerging lessons to inform the Cradle to Career Network and the Collective Impact field as a whole.
Goals of the Initiative
A primary goal of the Prepare Learning Circle is to demonstrate how communities are currently tracking success along large-scale and ambitious workforce and career readiness goals. Ultimately, we hope to bring some clarity around what the key transition points are that will ensure students and adults are ready and able to access quality jobs, much in the same way that StriveTogether’s ‘Roadmap to Success’ highlights critical points in students’ development from birth through college.
We also hope to capture and share lessons about effective collaboration around workforce outcomes through our work with the Prepare communities. In particular, we hope to learn about:
- which local government institutions are instrumental in driving workforce outcomes and how to effectively partner with them,
- how to effectively engage employers and keep them at the collaborative table,
- how to meaningfully incorporate community members into these efforts, and
- how to incorporate racial equity considerations into this work.
StriveTogether and Living Cities
The Prepare Learning Circle builds on Living Cities’ partnership with StriveTogether to ensure the success of every child from cradle to career. A strong majority of partnerships in the StriveTogether Network have focused on the link between educational attainment and economic opportunity, particularly the need to support the preparation of a workforce that can access quality jobs. The Prepare Learning Circle will leverage the strength of Network members to expand the knowledge base and drive progress related specifically to workforce readiness and placement.