Talent Dividend Work

Building revolutionary partnerships amid fiscal uncertainty

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Until very recently, Los Angeles Talent Dividend efforts were in a holding pattern.

The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has been working with various partner organizations to address issues of access and retention in their higher education. But success depended on the passage of Proposition 30 on Nov. 6, which would approve a tax increase for education. The proposal was, in their view, a necessary one.

"California has had severe fiscal problems and budgetary issues," explains Erika Heeb, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the LA Chamber. "The school system was facing $6 billion in cuts, cuts that would have essentially devastated them." California already had a problem, particularly at the community college level, with students having access to the classes they needed. A failure to pass Prop 30 would have exacerbated the problem, leading to steep tuition hikes and fewer available classes.
Despite being a close call right up to the end, Prop 30 passed, and now that the crisis has passed, the L.A. Chamber can finally move forward on implementing their ideas to increase access, attraction and retention.

"Now that we're beyond this incredible pressure, we can have real conversations and move forward," Heeb says. 
The L.A. Chamber uses both systematic and programmatic strategies to increase college access. They are partnering with higher education institutions, which have become increasingly active in discussing how collectively they can help transition students from high school to college to career. The Student Success Passport in Long Beach is a certificate-based two-year professional development program involving extracurricular professional development activities. The Chamber also seeks to focus more on internship programs, particularly at the community college level, to keep students engaged and on a clear career path. They have also identified skill gaps in certain industries, specifically the health care industry, and are working to create better alignment between higher education institutions, the health care industry, and the education/skill training needs of employers.
The Chamber has had already seen success in building partnerships. The L.A. Compact is a collaborative of 19 educational institutions and organizations, from K-12 to teachers' unions, that works to identify educational issues in the public school system and strategize on how to work together to address them. (Heeb calls the signing of this compact "revolutionary" for LA.) The L.A. Chamber has people on staff dedicated entirely to this effort, attending meetings, taking notes and addressing frustrations. They are currently in the process of releasing Compact 2.0.
The Institutions of Higher Education Collaborative (under the L.A. Compact) is a consortium of 11 higher education institutions trying to negotiate a feedback loop with education by assessing preparation programs, sharing best practices in student retention, launching student success work groups, improve the transfer process from community colleges, and more. The Student Success Task Force focuses specifically on community colleges and increasing student success with clear transfer pathways to universities and helping students come up with education plans and get on track for specific degree programs.
The L.A. Chamber is also a regional partner in Cash for College, an effort that helps students access financial aid by hosting workshops for students and their families to fill out FAFSA forms. In the year 2011 alone this program helped 7,000 students access $37 million in financial aid.

Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
Source: Erika Heeb, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
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