12 cities to work on pathway plans

The National League of Cities (NLC) will work with 12 cities to build and scale innovative ideas in implementing pathways to postsecondary and workforce success.

NLC is starting a two-year effort to address a major challenge facing cities — ensuring that all residents have access and support to earn industry-valued certificates and degrees with the ultimate goal of gaining meaningful employment.

Officials from the selected cities — including leaders from government, education and business — will meet in Washington, D.C., this week to share ideas and strategies, as well as engage with national experts. Each city will leave with a plan to implement, build and or scale efforts in their city to improve equity in certificate and degree attainment as well as workforce success.

Their efforts will be documented and shared nationally, according to NLC.

The 12 cities are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Columbus, Georgia
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • South Bend, Indiana

Ready to roll

Partners from the selected cities are eager to start.

Columbus State Community College is a front door to accessible, affordable higher education,” Steve Dackin, superintendent of school and community partnerships at Columbus State in Ohio. “In order to meet growing workforce needs, it’s our role to work with partners in the city and business community to prepare students for jobs of the future.”

Some studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of new job openings in the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education or training. Research by the Georgetown Center on Education and Workforce shows that since the recent recession, more than 95 percent of the jobs created have gone to individuals with education beyond a high school diploma.

“As the Columbus region continues to thrive economically, there will be substantial demand for quality workers at all skill levels,” said Don DePerro, president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. “This selection reflects our ongoing commitment to connecting employers with an educated, marketable workforce.”

Mayors and other city leaders know their efforts to build strong and vibrant local economies depend on their ability to develop and retain a well-educated, relevant workforce with 21st-century skills.

To reach this goal, cities need clear pathways to college and postsecondary programs that are responsive to regional workforce needs.

“Columbus is in a prime position to use cross-sector partnerships and increase postsecondary degrees and workforce success,” said Rhonda Johnson, director of the City of Columbus Education Department.

The NLC program is supported by the Kresge Foundation.

Work in cities

NLC also has released a report examining the future of work in cities, focusing on societal shifts and advancements in technology that are affecting the rapidly changing workforce. The report outlines solutions to help city leaders plan, while forecasting the economic viability of two distinct sectors — retail and office administration — in which a quarter of Americans are currently employed.

Some of these solutions include:

  • Investing in digital and physical infrastructure that supports modern working patterns
  • Rethinking education and workforce training programs to meet employer needs
  • Ensuring equity is considered in business development programs
  • Supporting entrepreneurs and startup communities
  • Considering forward-thinking policies such as paid family leave, portable benefits and basic income

Cities should work to create policies that build pathways between postsecondary education institutions and their business communities, according to the report.

“They can institute policies and programs that encourage employers to offer tuition reimbursements and flexible schedules that might enable employees to pursue continuing education or additional training,” it said. “Investment in improving and increasing access to early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary educational opportunities will position cities to not only benefit from automation and other technology changes, but also ensure that the local workforce has the skills to contribute to and share in the gains.”

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