During the second week of October, over 100 representatives from six counties and 22 cities from the Sacramento region embarked on an educational trip to Nashville, Tenn., with the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Study Mission.
One thing became clear during my weeklong trip: Nashville’s business community is highly invested in educational opportunities and outcomes. The city’s education system has benefited by leveraging resources from the business community. The business community in turn benefits from workforce quality and retention, which is an ideal model for the Sacramento region to emulate.
“The business community cannot dabble in education,” Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ralph Schultz told us. “You either go all in or you don’t do it. Otherwise it will be the most frustrating experience you’ve ever had.”
Here’s how the Nashville Chamber has succeeded in influencing educational outcomes and how Sacramento can learn from its successes:
Engage in policy discussions
The Metro Chamber could engage in more policy discussion to impact the direction of the overall educational system in Sacramento. The NACC along with the city and state has taken a vital step toward advancement as a region. They clearly understand the overall return on investment of taking part in local policy discussions. The Metro Chamber has also taken a major step considering its involvement with the Next Economy Plan and NextEd. Yet, there are still opportunities to engage in policy discussions, to link more industries to our educational systems, and bridge educational experience with real-world practical experiences. This sort of involvement would build a stronger workforce and likely attract new business.
Engage in the politics of schools
The NACC has done a great job of working collaboratively with educators and members of the business community to build a cohesive advisory board to engage and influence positive change in the educational system. Nashville is a single city with a single school district, and the NACC has involved itself heavily in the recruitment and election of school board members it supports. Politics can get muddled, so if the Metro Chamber decides to engage in school board elections it’s critical to ensure it’s done for the right reasons. It would require a full commitment to doing what’s best for our students, teachers, administrators and the economic development of our region.
Still, it’s an ingenious approach. As an educator who has a vested interest in the Sacramento region’s educational and economic development, I think it’s wise to engage in local educational politics. My concern is not having the right educational people in the room and around the table to help make these decisions, which could be devastating if not handled correctly.
Engage programmatically with tangible investments
The NACC funded three educational tracks at Hillsboro High School Academy: International Business and Communication, Global Health and Sciences, and an International Baccalaureate Diploma program. Starting with 2015 graduates, the Tennessee Promise, a statewide scholarship and mentoring program, will offer two years of tuition-free community or technical college to all high school graduates. These are huge investments in the future workforce of Tennessee.
The Metro Chamber’s work with its new Small Business Development Center, Sacramento State and NextEd, the premier employer education partnership in the region, is a step in the right direction and will likely provide more opportunities to support the development of local small business.
Here in Sacramento, we need to see stronger partnerships between the business community and schools, community colleges and universities. Opportunities like these allow students and businesses the opportunity to work together and retain talent— which should be a major priority. The more seamless partnerships we establish with these sectors, the better for our students and the development and economic growth of our region. Drexel University Sacramento has partnered with many companies as part of our cooperative education program: Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento Kings, Embassy Suites, Nehemiah and Sacramento Republic FC, to name a few.
Schultz told us, “The business community is a compelling force in education because they are willing to invest their money and their time. They have enlisted the Chamber as the mechanism by which to execute the plan.” Perhaps it’s time for Sacramento to follow suit.
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