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Opinion: What are the benefits of a Talent Hub designation?

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Springfield wants to be a community that attracts, retains and cultivates talent.

Well, there’s a tool through the Lumina Foundation that just might help. It’s called a Talent Hub designation.

The earned designation represents a community’s willingness to organize and align around talent development goals to increase postsecondary attainment. This is best achieved by key community leaders developing standards to improve the ecosystem that adult learners follow through postsecondary education. Our community would need rigorous standards that align how we function through systems that intersect with the private, public and social sectors for adult learners.

The process involves a submitted self-assessment, interview with a Lumina Foundation strategy officer and an application.

One way our community can work toward a Talent Hub designation is through cross-sector partnerships to make changes to systems that can be scaled. As a society, we sometimes focus on trying to fix the individual rather than fix the system. When a community can focus on intentionally addressing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic attainment gaps, communities can accelerate equitable postsecondary achievement.

From a business point of view, one might say, “What’s in it for me or my business?” Or, “Why do I need to do anything differently?”

If you have no problem filling vacant positions with skilled talent, then do nothing differently. However, if we want to grow our businesses and continue to make Springfield one of the best places to live, work and play, we need to do better. Improvements to existing systems and practices can make our community more attractive for today’s students who become tomorrow’s employees.

Today’s students are no longer the typical person who graduates high school in June and starts college the same year. According to Lumina Foundation, many of today’s students are people of color, first in their families to go to college and are from low-income households. The Lumina Foundation reported nationally that 37% of college students are ages 25 and older and 46% are the first in their family to attend college. Many of today’s college students work while attending classes and 40% work full time, with 49% financially independent from their parents. Springfield is experiencing similar trends.

The Talent Hub designation focuses on five key areas: community partnership health; equity; attainment and impact; alignment; and scale, sustainability and systems. The latest communities to earn the designation are St. Louis; Detroit; Las Vegas; Mobile, Alabama; Elkhart County, Indiana; and Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Valley in Texas, according to LuminaFoundation.org. Seventeen communities were selected in 2017.

Several key Springfield community leaders are in the process of completing a communitywide self-assessment that will identify our strengths and opportunities for enhancement in those five key areas. With this, our community will be able to enhance existing systems and create a roadmap for our private, public and social sectors to use as a guide for community improvements. This approach aligns the Springfield area with a community goal to increase postsecondary attainment to 60% by 2025.

There is momentum building.

At a recent Good Morning Springfield event, City Manager Jason Gage said the city would soon announce its diversity and inclusion initiative. He also indicated the city is looking at diversity from the perspective of hiring, purchasing and community engagement. Additionally, the Missouri Department of Higher Education issued a “save the date” notice for an Oct. 30 conference in Columbia to discuss a statewide equity research project and Gov. Mike Parson signed the Fast Track initiative to help meet Missouri’s big goal of 60% of working age adults having a high-quality certificate or degree by 2025.

Our community is in direct alignment with the state goals.

Francine Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at fpratt@cpozarks.org.

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