Talent Dividend Work

Engaging employers in adult degree completion

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Adult learners are sometimes overlooked by talent development and degree completion initiatives -- especially once those adults are employed.

"Working adults are kind of the missing piece" of college attainment efforts, says Susan Kannel, Associate Vice President of CAEL. "Once they're in the workplace, they kind of get lost."

Denver's Talent Dividend efforts, led by CAEL's Denver offices, are trying to change that. Their program, My Degree Matters Colorado, is intensively employer-focused and geared toward helping employers link talent development to their business goals -- and supporting their employees through their educational goals.

Key strategies include:

- Helping employers understand the business case for investing in degree completion. College degree holders tend to report higher job satisfaction and tend to have lower turnover rates. 

- Encouraging employers to offer or expand tuition assistance for their employees.

- Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs), which offer college credit for experiential learning. PLAs accelerate college degree attainment and engage adults in understanding their own career paths. CAEL offers PLAs through the online service LearningCounts.org.

- Developing an Employer Toolkit, which should be available next month.

"There are more than 600,000 adults in Colorado who started, but never finished, their college degree," says Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joseph Garcia. "We want these people back on our college and university campuses, because Colorado's economic growth and vitality depend on it."

The same is true for every metropolitan area in the United States. But the fact that Lt. Governor Garcia has lent his support to the Talent Dividend in Denver is a major coup.    

"It's been really helpful to have support from the state government," says Shawn Hulsizer, Senior Program Director for CAEL. "If you have that support at the highest levels, having that conversation at the employer level is much easier."

"We're building something we believe will go beyond the Denver metro and affect the whole state," Kannel adds. 

Denver's efforts are not specifically designed in pursuit of the $1 million prize -- although they would certainly be happy to receive it.

Instead, the program is aligned toward why degree completion matters -- for employers, for colleges, for students, for the government, and for the economic vitality of the region -- and toward building Denver's talent pipeline and developing its workforce for the long-term future.

And, at its heart, there's a kind of golden rule.

"What's good for the individual is good for the economy is good for the world," Kannel says. 

Source: Shawn Hulsizer and Susan Kannel, CAEL 
Writer: Amy Elliott Bragg
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