Fundamental misalignments across P-12 education, higher education, and the workforce threaten our ability to meet this country’s 21st century education and workforce needs, especially in the highest-demand careers. To address this challenge, I believe that local business and higher education leaders will need to execute systemic strategies for improving college readiness and degree attainment in their communities. BHEF supports these leaders—the Fortune 500 CEOs, college and university presidents, and foundation leaders who comprise our membership—in such endeavors, providing the networks, tools, and resources they need to catalyze change.
The gravity of the misalignment problem is best illustrated by the fact that while 88 percent of ACT college entrance exam test-takers aspire to attain at least a two-year degree, only 24 percent meet all four college readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math, and science. In addition, student interest in the five fastest growing careers —education, computer science/information management, community services, and marketing/sales—does not align with projected demand. Worse still, more than half of those interested in these high-growth careers fail to meet math and science college readiness benchmarks that signal high likelihood of success in postsecondary education. (The Condition of College and Career Readiness, 2010).
So what can we do? BHEF’s Cities for Success Leadership Summit was one initiative designed to provide leaders from several communities with the tools and networks they need to undertake systemic education improvement efforts. This event showcased the important work BHEF members and their peers have undertaken in Louisville, KY, bringing BHEF leaders from Des Moines and Oklahoma City, as well as other cities, to learn how Louisville coalesced around the big vision of creating a community that surpasses its peers as a place to live and work.
We applaud the leadership in Oklahoma City and Des Moines for taking those necessary first steps to sustainable P-12 and higher education improvement. We also applaud the Louisville team for its sustained commitment to bringing about education improvement in the region. In the coming months, BHEF will continue to support these business and higher education leaders as they develop their own “big visions” and journey toward actualizing their community goals.