Education and the workforce: An essential connection

Oct 03, 2018

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Business and Education Alliance (BEA) joined forces to co-host the 2018 Education Issue Forum Oct. 3 in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center at Newman University.

Superintendents from Andover, Derby, Goddard, Maize and Wichita participated in a discussion about pro-education policies and how to better prepare students for the workforce.

Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D.

Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., BEA co-chair, said the BEA mission is to “align education and business communities to ensure a productive workforce needed for sustained economic growth for our region.

“Over the past few years, we have researched best practices for incorporating soft skills training in schools, sponsored a literacy summit,” promoted Principal for a Day for business and civic leaders to witness the fine work being done in our schools, championed the Summer Youth Employment Project led by the Workforce Alliance, and urged all community members to participate in the Women of the United Way’s Read to Succeed program.”

BEA co-chair Lyndy Wells said the forum is a way to get the business and education community together to learn from each other and talk about long-term goals.

“The goal really is to communicate the issues from the superintendents’ perspectives that businesses can do to help train their workforce,” explained Wells. “It’s a mutual aid kind of thing. The schools need help from the private sector and the private sector needs to understand that from the schools. So we’re going to talk about Principal for a Day and some of the things that the BEA is trying to do to encourage business to look more closely at what schools do.”

Newman alumna Alicia Thompson was one of the superintendents present, representing Wichita Public Schools USD 259.

“I’m excited to talk about some innovative things we’re doing in our district,” said Thompson of the day’s topics. “We’re talking about some of the things we’re doing for our student population. … We’re talking a lot about graduation rates.

“I want them (businesses) to know that this is a unit. We are a continuum. At the end of the day, we want them to have a workforce and a group of students, graduates that have the skill sets to be able to come into their business and do anything they need to do.”

State Rep. Steven Crum was also present at the event, stating his role is to listen to what districts are doing and how to get students job ready.

“I represent parts of Haysville, Derby and Wichita school districts, and I try to work with them just as much as possible,” said Crum. “It’s not just about going to four-year colleges anymore. We’ve got to find pathways and make sure students are leaving high school, and college if they decide to go that route, ready to work jobs here in Wichita and to make sure we have jobs here in Wichita that people want.

“It’s just important for us to know what’s going on in the districts.”