• Missouri Must Invest More in Higher Education

    Jan 25, 2018

    Workforce development is economic development.  Countless studies point to the return on investment that accompanies increased spending on higher education, and business leaders regularly note that one of the greatest barriers to growing their business is a shortage of skilled workers. Unfortunately, the Governor’s 2019 budget recommendation for the State of Missouri, which includes $68 million dollars in cuts to higher education, falls short in making our state’s workforce the priority it should be.

    Employers across the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri regularly cite a skilled workforce as critical to their companies’ ability to grow and thrive.  According to the State of the St. Louis Workforce Report released in 2017, employers’ top concern today is not government regulation or current economic conditions, but finding the right talent. At the St. Louis Regional Chamber, we hear this same concern from employers considering St. Louis as a possible location for expanding their business. They often use the concentration of people who possess an Associate’s degree or higher as a primary indicator to judge the health of the region’s economic climate.   

    The cuts to higher education threaten Missouri’s ability to compete nationally and globally. The proposed cuts would undermine our ability to provide more people a quality post-secondary education at precisely the time when it is becoming increasingly more essential both for business and individuals. Cutting investment in higher education increases college costs, primarily shifting the burden to students. It reduces critical support services at state institutions that are essential to helping students successfully complete their degrees or credentials. Moreover, it expands an already wide gap in who can afford the post-secondary credentials needed to thrive in our economy, ensuring that higher education has become a privilege of the affluent rather than an essential resource for all residents.

    Economic prosperity for individuals has become increasingly tied to their ability to obtain credentials beyond high school. New data by the Bureau of Labor statistics proves that post-secondary education is essential for finding jobs in today’s economy. At the same time, growing tuition rates and the fear of accumulating debt have discouraged a significant number of people from considering college an option. When our state budget reflects the notion that higher education is not a priority, it contributes to a narrative that suggests “college is not worth it” despite the reality of economic data suggesting the opposite.

    Investment in higher education is fundamentally an investment in the public good. While we know that higher education is essential for career and workforce preparation, its value to the public at large exists beyond that.  Higher education prepares critical thinkers, innovators, creators, entrepreneurs and change agents. This benefits all of us. Our society and our democracy is stronger because of education at all levels. Leaders across the state of Missouri must work together to prioritize what we know is essential for job creation and continued economic development: increased educational attainment. A college degree should not be considered a commodity only available to those with financial means—an alarming scenario created by the kinds of cuts to higher education proposed in the state budget.

    While we applaud a number of the Governor’s recommendations for education funding, specifically significant increases in K-12 funding as well as a $2 million increase to Access Missouri, our state’s need-based aid program. We remain concerned, however, that these increases will be insufficient if funding for higher education is not considered the priority it needs to be, if post-secondary education is out of reach for so many of Missouri’s students.

    We urge members of the General Assembly to remember that our state’s most valuable asset is its people. We can only create jobs, fill those jobs, and ensure economic opportunity for people living in Missouri if we make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable, not less so.

  • The City of St. Louis Is Named One of the Recipients of NAF’s 2016-2017 President’s Award

    Jul 19, 2017
    ST. LOUIS - NAF, a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure that high school students are college, career, and future ready, recently announced their 2016-2017 President’s Award recipients, one being the city of St. Louis. The President’s Award recognizes outstanding examples of community partnership and engagement that enable NAF and its network to deliver on their mission to solve some of the greatest challenged facing education and the economy by bringing education, business, and community leaders together to transform the high school experience. Washington, DC was also awarded this year’s honor.

    NAF_Patton, McCoySt. Louis has exemplified an “all-in” commitment from industry, district, and community partners, that have not only identified specific workforce and community needs, but have also gone above and beyond with their dedication to shaping the future talent pipeline. With key players in industry and education, specifically World Wide Technology (WWT), the Jennings School District, and the St. Louis Regional Chamber under Valerie Patton’s leadership, this outstanding community has created significant impact for America’s future leaders, as well as lasting change. Additionally, these exemplars have laid the groundwork for expansion and establishing future relationships to continue NAF’s important and life-changing work for the entire city.

    World Wide Technology has been the driving force, supporting the collaboration between NAF and the Global Leadership Forum (GLF), that encompasses multiple areas of investment, including establishing a Future Ready St. Louis. This initiative is well underway and has made a significant impact in the Jennings School District. Two of these academies – the NAF Academy of Finance and the NAF Academy of Information Technology have completed NAF’s Year of Planning, and the additional Fast Track academies – the NAF Academy of Health Sciences and the NAF Academy of Engineering have flourished since opening their doors for the 2016-2017 school year. It is projected that for the 2017-18 school year, these four academies will serve nearly 300 students in Jennings High School and continuing prepare these young leaders to be college, career, and future ready.

    Juanita Logan, Director, Corporate Development, World Wide Technology, Inc., said, “We believe that the collaboration between organizations like NAF and other GLF partners that share a common vision, will provide a material multiplier effect on our ability to serve students who represent that talent we must cultivate in high-need, high-growth sectors of the economy.”

    Dr. Art McCoy, Superintendent of Schools, Jennings School District, commented, “Jennings School District and its partners are tremendously thrilled to receive the NAF President's Award.  At our 100th Commencement, the Jennings graduating class of 2017 had 100% College and Career placement. Yet, this would not have been possible without NAF and our strong corporate partners like World Wide Technology, supporting our students and staff.  We are grateful. We truly see a great difference in our community and the lives of our students.”

    The partnership will be recognized at NAF Next in Dallas, TX on Tuesday, July 11th. NAF Next is NAF’s annual professional development conference that brings together education, business, and community leaders to address some of the biggest challenges facing education and the economy. 

    About NAF
    NAF, is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure that high school students are college, career, and future ready. NAF works with high need communities to transform the high school experience through an educational design that includes industry-specific curricula, work-based learning experiences, and relationships with business professionals, culminating in a paid internship. NAF academies fit within and enhance school systems, allowing NAF to become an integral part of a plan for higher achievement at a low cost. NAF academies focus on one of five career themes: finance, hospitality & tourism, information technology, engineering, and health sciences. During the 2016-17 school year more than 96,000 students attended 675 NAF academies across 36 states, including D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2016, NAF academies reported 96% of seniors graduated with 92% of graduates with post-secondary intentions. For more information, please visit: http://naf.org/