Washington, D.C. (February 8, 2011) – Corporate Voices for Working Families has been awarded a second grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build on its successful workforce education initiatives and continue leading business engagement aimed at increasing postsecondary completion and credentials for low-income young adults.
As part of the two-year, $1.6 million implementation grant, Corporate Voices will build upon its initial learn and earn efforts that have successfully assisted employers inimproving the education and training of entry-level employees. By catalyzing business-community college collaboration to promote scalable learn and earn practices and facilitating innovative employer and community college partnerships, Corporate Voices will help low-income workers achieve valuable postsecondary credentials that result in career benefits.
Hilary Pennington, Director of Education, Postsecondary Success, and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says: “We believe that all young Americans who have the will to get a postsecondary degree should have a way to do it. Corporate Voices for Working Families brings together the business and higher education communities to develop innovative programs that put young adults on a path to a postsecondary degree and a brighter future.”
In today’s economy, young adults need some form of postsecondary degree or training to succeed in the workplace and in life. Over the coming decade, employers will need to fill millions of job openings that require both experience and a postsecondary credential. With more than 75 percent of college students holding down a job while going to school, businesses can play a critical role in helping their employees complete college.
Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families, says: “We are gratified that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given Corporate Voices this opportunity to continue and expand our work to identify and highlight working models, build awareness and profile programs that are succeeding in moving low-income young workers into the business workplace.”
“This workforce education initiative will effectively address the unique need of low-income young adults to simultaneously work and continue their education by identifying employer-supported learn and earn models,” Wing says. “Entry-level low-income workers are often trapped – blocked from pursing traditional education paths because they have to work and blocked from career goals because they do not have postsecondary certifications.”
In 2009 Corporate Voices received a $415,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to identify and document leading examples of learn and earn models featuring employer efforts to support postsecondary attainment, while engaging business leaders in a dialogue on postsecondary education with a focus on community colleges.
As part of this initial grant, Corporate Voices released a report highlighting the imperative for partnerships between community colleges and employers to enhance workforce readiness skills and increase U.S. college completion rates. The report, titled From an 'Ill-Prepared' to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate, was released in early October, on the same day as the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.
As we invest in community colleges to ensure America’s economic future, the Corporate Voices’ paper explores the innovative collaborations between employers and community colleges, and finds that they can and do play a positive role in increasing workforce readiness skills and college completion rates. Importantly, these partnerships enable young people to successfully combine postsecondary education and work.
Also, Corporate Voices has published micro-business cases that identify and spotlight businesses that are making significant contributions to postsecondary completion through progressive talent development practices that increase access to career opportunities through education and training. Highlighted in these case studies are AOL, Verizon Wireless, CVS Caremark, Expeditors, Bison Gear and Engineering and Georgia Power.
Corporate Voices, formed in 2001 to engage the business community in public and private policy issues involving working families, has a track record of success in identifying employer-supported learn and earn models through its workforce readiness body of work and its longstanding relationships with more than 50 best-practice partner companies and a network of strategic outreach partners.