School levy today, business-education partnerships in future

by MATT BOTT, Issaquah Reporter Columnist
Jan 17, 2014 at 4:00AM

Let me start this column by urging your support for the upcoming Issaquah School District levies. On behalf of the local and regional business community, the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce is proud to offer its full endorsement and complete support for the three school levies on the ballot this February.

The Issaquah School District continues to be among the highest performing in the state and there is little doubt that local investment in local education is among the best way a community can support its youth and local economy. Strong schools mean healthy families, bright futures and a strong local economy. Let’s keep this going for Issaquah’s students and our community. Vote yes on the Issaquah school levies.

Now, let me turn to some observations about the future of business and education.

Across the nation, we are seeing relatively unprecedented engagement with, and partnership between, the business and education communities. The winning communities of the future will have this partnership down to a “science.” Nobody knows this more than chambers of commerce.

Across the nation and the Evergreen State, chambers are engaging in a myriad of education/business partnerships. And they must. The talent level of a local workforce is probably the defining factor, next to a pro-business regulatory climate, in whether a business will invest jobs in a community or move on to greener pastures.

The gaps are clear. Internships. Workforce training. Youth un(and under)employment. Critical thinking skills. Academic rigor. Entrepreneurial training. Different communities will have different needs and different responses. In Issaquah, career-pathways is a big topic. In other communities, it is graduation rates. In some, it’s school performance.

Locally, our work mirrors this trend in business-education partnerships. This May, the chamber’s Education Committee, led by the talented Cornell Atwater of LearningRX, in collaboration with the school district, Schools Foundation and others, will hold our second Great Careers event. The program helps hundreds of local students identify meaningful career pathways that match their skills and ambitions. The hopeful outcomes: reducing the “decade drift,” career-path mismatch and youth unemployment.

Another area is internship programs. In Issaquah alone there are hundreds of businesses that could (and many do) provide real-world experience to local students as a part of their development. The notable work of Superior Seconds, a downtown locally-owned sporting goods store, which mentors middle and high school students and engages in community youth drug prevention efforts, is just one example. And regionally, the more we can attack the skills gap – particularly in science, technology, engineering and math – through dynamic, innovative business-education partnerships, the more successful we will be.

Meaningful business-education partnerships, be they in the form of workforce development, career readiness or entrepreneur training, is a welcome trend and valuable tool for community advancement. Vote “yes” on the levies in February, and join us in helping our kids succeed and our community thrive in months and years to follow.

Matthew Bott is the chief executive officer of the Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce. He writes on topics regarding the local/regional economy and community leadership.