The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) supports member-led projects, working with regional business and education leaders to create networks committed to P-20 education solutions supporting economic and workforce outcomes. These projects provide opportunities for regional teams of BHEF corporate, university, and foundation members to collaborate with their peers to support local efforts that align workforce and education goals. BHEF staff works with members to bring relevant stakeholders to the table, offers strategic consultation and expertise, facilitates connections to similar efforts underway in other communities, and provides members with national perspectives and experts to make their ideas for workforce and education improvement a reality.
Louisville, KY is one of BHEF’s most successful regional projects and serves as a model for the next projects taking place in Des Moines, IA; Oklahoma City, OK; and the state of Maryland.
In Des Moines, student interest in high-growth fields such as education, management, computer/information specialties, marketing/sales, and healthcare do not align with future job demand. Additionally, few students are meeting the college readiness benchmarks in high-growth careers, particularly in math and science. See ACT’s analysis of Iowa’s education and workforce misalignment. The current workforce-education misalignment is evidence that merely setting workforce goals and relying on the “invisible hand” of individual self-interest in education to generate an adequate supply of skilled, educated workers is unlikely to work as efficiently as communities and states will need. Read more on how Des Moines leaders are shaping an education improvement effort to address these fundamental misalignments here.
The Louisville region, like many communities, has suffered from three forms of misalignment: (1) education systems did not produce the necessary numbers of skilled workers; (2) interest did not align with high-growth jobs; and (3) preparation did not align with workforce demands. See ACT’s analysis of Kentucky’s education and workforce misalignment. To address the region’s challenges, BHEF's Kentucky-based business and higher education members are leading a community-wide education improvement effort in the Louisville region. Their ultimate goal is to help the education system produce an additional 55,000 degrees by 2020, in turn addressing urgent workforce needs in the region. Read more about the BHEF Louisville member-led local project here.
Through the STEM Higher Education and Workforce Project, BHEF supports a regional strategy in which BHEF members’ corporations and universities collaborate in regional efforts to identify and implement innovative approaches to meeting joint education and workforce needs. BHEF’s regional STEM work in Maryland, led by University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor and BHEF Chair William “Brit” Kirwan, explores strategies including: new cognitive science-based learning tools; research experiences for first-year undergraduate students; early internships in corporate and government facilities; redesigned courses and new methods of teaching STEM; early career advising, mentoring, and academic support for undergraduates; and professional science master’s programs for midcareer employees. Read more about the BHEF’s regional work in Maryland here.
According to ACT’s analysis of Oklahoma’s future workforce, many of the future high-growth jobs will require employees to have at least a two-year college degree. However, many students leaving high school are not prepared to succeed in college. See ACT’s analysis of Oklahoma’s education and workforce misalignment.
BHEF Executive Director Brian Fitzgerald traveled to Oklahoma City in August 2010 to discuss strategies for business-led education improvement. Specifically, he challenged the community to consider how business can shape a comprehensive vision for the community—one that will catalyze change from all stakeholders, including education. The interest in building a community-wide effort to strengthen the labor force led to a team of high-level delegates to travel to Kentucky for the BHEF Cities for Success Leadership Summit in October 2010 to learn from the Louisville model. Following this event, the Oklahoma City team—comprised of CEOs, college and university presidents, representatives from K-12 and local foundations, and the mayor—is shaping the dimensions of a possible education improvement strategy.