Augusta Julian and John Roush: Regional colleges collaborate on workplace readiness

John Roush
John Roush

The importance of parental involvement, authentic learning experiences and teacher collaboration were some of the key takeaways for more than 200 educators and business leaders who met late in the fall for the second Bluegrass Higher Education Consortium Presidents Conference, part of Bluegrass Tomorrow's Create Bluegrass 4.0 event, "Dream It, Achieve It."

At the invitation of the 12 presidents of colleges and universities in the Bluegrass Region, college provosts, deans, faculty and students, along with K-12 superintendents, principals and teachers, business and work-force leaders met to discuss common goals previously unimagined as attainable.

In its first two years, the BHEC set lofty goals around developing academic leadership, supporting college and career readiness and identifying professional skills needed by world-class college graduates to support economic development in Central Kentucky.

A well-rounded young adult ready for a 21st-century economy needs to be grounded not just in science, technology, engineering and math, although STEM is now critical to our economic future, but also the arts and social environments.

The conference supported a key concept behind the work of the consortium: to create collaborative opportunities to address challenging education issues. Presenters included university presidents, faculty, students, the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board, Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, legislators, K-12 partners, business leaders, the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and others.

We want to share the progress made to date.

First, the conference itself supported a key concept behind the work of the consortium: to create collaborative opportunities bringing together college, school and business interests and resources to address challenging education issues. Three major ideas came from dialogue among workforce development and training agencies and secondary and post-secondary education:

■ Support more parental involvement in deciding on and planning for college and careers for students from kindergarten through college.

■ Create more experiences that connect K-16 students to businesses and workplaces by providing internships, mentorships, job shadowing, work experience and apprenticeships, as part of curricula, major studies, dual credit programs and co-curricular activities.

■ Develop collaborative opportunities for K-12 teachers and college faculty to communicate effectively and develop cooperative professional development in areas such as STEM disciplines and the arts and college and career planning and preparation.

A second accomplishment relates to a consortium goal on educational policy and advocacy. The conference's keynote presentation brought Kentucky and national education leader Gene Wilhoit of the National Center on Innovation and Education into discussion with those representing the colleges and K-12 leaders and included panelists David Adkisson of the Kentucky Chamber, and Rep. Rocky Adkins, House Majority Leader.

The session, "Mobilizing the Village," focused on collaboration, advocacy and communication between government and education and whether some of the commonwealth's educational policies are supporting educational needs. Continuing conversations are essential.

A third accomplishment is the new Academic Leadership Academy in 2014 as the fulfillment of one of the consortium's early goals related to professional development partnerships. The colleges and universities have committed to work together to create a new cadre of collaborative higher education leaders, drawn from the ranks of faculty, to lead our institutions forward.

The academy will run from Feb. 14, with a first session at Georgetown College, through a May 16 session at Eastern Kentucky University, with each institution in the consortium sending up to five participants. This announcement also sparked discussion about collaboration and professional development among K-12 teachers and college faculty.

A fourth accomplishment is consortium work toward a comprehensive reference point for college and career planning. There are literally hundreds of programs, websites, listings, activities, agencies and more that provide such resources, and still, parents and students may find it difficult to find the information they seek. Through the consortium's College and Career Readiness initiative, we have worked to collect these resources.

The Bluegrass Higher Education Consortium will continue to advance in 2014. A major goal remains supporting a seamless college- and career-preparation system and resource with cooperation across many sectors and agencies. We invite your feedback, participation and financial support in these efforts to help us achieve these goals — previously unimagined.

For more information contact Rob Rumpke rob@bluegrasstomorrow.org.

About the authors:

Augusta Julian is president of Bluegrass Community & Technical College. John Roush is president of Centre College.