Employers delve into youth engagement at Chamber’s inaugural Education Workshop

By: Alicia Teel Posted: 05/04/2017

Increasing connections to career pathways is vital to strengthening our local talent pool

Education Workshop at The Foundry

On April 27, the Seattle Metro Chamber convened nearly 200 CEOs and human resources executives for a half-day of robust discussion about how to ensure that kids who grow up here are aware of, and ready for, the career pathways local employers offer. This question is central to the Chamber’s mission of engaging the innovation and entrepreneurship of our members to advance economic prosperity, advocate for a vital business environment, and build sustainable and healthy communities in the Seattle region.

The Benefits of Career Connected Learning

At our first-ever Education Workshop, attendees gained insights from leaders across the public, private and non-profit sectors about how career connected learning strengthens talent pipelines, from employer internship programs, to successful programs in our state like Core Plus, to the innovative Swiss apprenticeship model. HR leaders then took a deeper dive into the menu of opportunities available for career connected learning, through breakout sessions facilitated by organizations implementing these programs.

Brad Tilden with Student Speakers

Attendees also heard moving firsthand accounts from high school and college students about how the internships that they have participated in have made a difference in their career aspirations and have even sparked new possibilities in their communities, as they carry back what they have learned to friends, neighbors, and family members.

One major theme of the Workshop was that success cannot be achieved alone: partnering across the public, private, and non-profit sectors is essential. One effort that embodies this collaborative approach is the Seattle Region Partnership, an initiative launched at the Chamber’s 2015 Regional Leadership Conference that to seeks to bridge the gap between supply and demand so that local employers have access to talent while making sure that local residents can gain the skills to needed access these jobs. The Partnership, a tri-sector effort led by the Seattle Metro Chamber, King County, the City of Seattle, and the Seattle Foundation, played a crucial role in the programming and success of the Education Workshop.

The Opportunity Ahead

With 740,000 job openings predicted for Washington state from 2016-2021—the vast majority of which are mid-and higher-level jobs with prospects for upward mobility—we have an incredible opportunity to steer students toward stable, rewarding careers. However, too many young people today are falling out of the education pipeline or pursue credentials that do not prepare them for the professions with the highest demand.

For example:

  • One out of four high schools in our state graduate less than 60% of their students.
  • Two-thirds of all students who drop out are in their senior year of high school, just months away from completing their high school diploma.
  • In King County, 15,000 young people are neither in school nor working.
  • In King County, unemployment among young people is 12%, and unemployment for young African-Americans is 28%.

Joel Janda from Boston Consulting Group emphasized that If we can succeed at getting more students to complete a post-secondary credential—an apprenticeship, certificate, two-year degree, or four-year degree—we can set a virtuous cycle into motion with enormous economic and social benefits. These benefits include generating an extra $960,000 in earnings over an individual’s lifetime, as well as reducing unemployment by 36% over time.

A Commitment to Connect

Education Workshop Pennants

Spurred to action, business leaders raised their pennants to demonstrate their willingness to continue, or in some cases, to start, working together to provide and support more opportunities for career connected learning in our state and region.

Additionally, 35 employers made an on-the-spot commitment at the Workshop to engage with young people directly through one or more of the following:

  • Worksite visits
  • Mentorships
  • Internships or apprenticeships

This commitment from the private sector is critical to our ultimate goal of making sure people who grow up know about and can access the career pathways our local employers offer.

For more information about the Chamber’s work on education, please contact Kyla Skherich, our policy and outreach manager. For more information about the Seattle Region Partnership, please contact Alessandra Zielinski.