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In the Nation's Interest

View from the Fishbowl

By Cindy Cisneros
Director of Education Programs
Committee for Economic Development

View from the Fishbowl

CED is currently working on an 18-month research project funded by the Lumina Foundation that identifies promising business practices for employee postsecondary degree attainment and certification. With our research partner, Quill Research Associates, CED is assessing both incentives and impediments, and looking at factors that determine success. The first stage of the project involves conducting focus groups in four targeted cities—Memphis, Detroit, Miami, and New York. 

CED recently completed focus group activities in Memphis and Detroit.  At both locales we had rich dialogue about company initiatives that included internal strategies such as online training modules and external strategies such as partnerships with local colleges for credit toward a degree through on- and off-campus work.

Many variables factor in to workforce development as companies address entry level employees who may require additional skills training, advanced employees who are seeking to move up to management positions, and replacing the pipeline of employees who are preparing to retire. We are inspired by the extent of thinking about the education and development needs of employees—some driven by the philosophy of the company owner—and by the deep consideration of the economic impact in a region. It was also encouraging to see the high level of networking take place among the companies that we convened to further exchange ideas at the close of the focus group session.

We noted how dominant sectors like the auto industry in Detroit affect the evolution of economic sustainability—either by serving as a platform in which to advance (highly-skilled manufacturing and design) or as a signal to retreat (offshore plants for assembly). One participant informed us that Detroit has the greatest talent pool of IT and engineering skills outside of Silicon Valley, which bodes promising for attracting business and city revitalization.      

By the end of spring we will have finished all four focus groups and begin to follow up with a select number of companies for a deeper dive about their experiences. A final report of findings will be released next February. We look forward to providing updates along the way.