The 21st Century has been characterized as the information age and the knowledge economy. In this new economy, “human work will increasingly shift toward two kinds of tasks: solving problems for which standard operating procedures do not currently exist, and working with new information– acquiring it, making sense of it, communicating it to others” (Levy & Murnane, 2013).  This reality has posed key workforce development challenges including skill shortages and the need for aligning workforce training and education with industry needs. In fact, Foresight 2020, the Kansas Board of Regents’ strategic plan identifies improving the fit between our education system “with the needs of the new economy” as one of its three strategic goals. At the 2018 Chamber of Commerce Executives of Kansas Conference, the opening keynote featured Chancellor Douglas Girod, University of Kansas, and President Richard Myers, Kansas State University, speaking to the role of higher education in building Kansas prosperity. Did you know:

  • 73 percent of Kansas employees have difficulties finding qualified employees.
  • Two-thirds of jobs will require education and/or training beyond high school, but fewer students are seeking post-secondary education, in any form.

Elevating the educational attainment, workforce skills and increasing awareness of vocational/technical careers is essential to business prosperity and an economically and socially vibrant community. Recognizing our education system is a powerful factor contributing to workforce readiness, the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership with USD 348 to establish a Career and Youth Workforce Development & Needs ProgramThe overarching goal is to connect students with local businesses, at many levels throughout their preK-12 tenure, and to provide knowledge, skills and training opportunities required for employability through integrated, rigorous curricula coupled with active engagement of employers. Key is understanding industry skill needs, identifying gaps in the curriculum, providing experiential learning opportunities that connect businesses with students and creating County, State and regional partnerships for educational training and building human and financial resource capacity.

This fall, our partnership has resulted in two programs including “Career Connections” with BJHS and  “Let’s Talk Entrepreneurship” with BHS. We are planning a “BJHS Career Fair” for January 2019 (REGISTRATION) and a “Creative Industries Fair” with the Lumberyard Arts Center in March 2019. We will also be holding the 2nd Annual Douglas County Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) competition at Baker University, March 2 in partnership with Network Kansas and Douglas County E-Community.

Finally, we are working on developing a database of local businesses interested in participating in the workforce development program and the ways they are able to intersect with students whether by in-school presentations, site tours, job shadowing, apprenticeships, internships, part-time work and/or full time work.

Work Cited

Levy, Frank and Richard Murnane. 2013. Dancing with Robots- Human Skills for Computerized Work. Third Way Think Tank Report.