Talent Dividend Work

Letting people do what they do best

Related Tags

Houston's Talent Dividend efforts started, as so many efforts do, with a committee: an advisory group of regional stakeholders, including employers, independent school districts, community colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations. 

But with no blueprint for what they should do once everyone came to the table, they improvised. After a Talent Dividend summit in September 2011, they formed subcommittees. And that has made all the difference.

"I know it sounds silly to say that subcommittees are what's working for talent in Houston," says Ann Shaw, Director of External Affairs for Center for Houston's Future, which is leading the charge toward the Talent Dividend Prize. "But they've really been crucial."

There's a PR and marketing subcommittee, for instance, which has branded Houston's Talent Dividend project My Degree Counts. With short, shareable video testimonials from degree completers, outreach from spokesman and NFL tight end James Casey, and a rapper named Baby J who flows about the importance of finishing school, My Degree Counts is encouraging a younger demographic to take ownership of their education.

Meanwhile, a subcommittee of employers has developed an Employer Toolkit to help workforce partners encourage their employees to go back to school. J.P. Morgan Chase has dedicated money specifically to the employer subcommittee -- a strong vote of confidence that employer-led talent initiatives in Houston are on the right track.

And community colleges, through their own subcommittee, are coming together to develop a spin-off of My Degree Counts specifically for community college enrollees. 

"The subcommittees are able to speak to their specific audiences," Shaw says. School districts can work with area high schools to increase college enrollment. Nonprofit organizations can serve as a feet-on-the-ground force in communities to work with at-risk students, underserved populations, and people who've never even considered going to school. Employers can share resources with each other and with their employees, such as information about the recent reverse transfer law passed by the Texas legislature, which will allow community colleges to grant associate's degrees to students who have transferred to a four-year institution without counting their credits toward a degree.

The subcommittee model has also begun to lay the groundwork for a talent program that will extend far beyond the 2013 prize. 

"The prize is for the groundwork," Shaw says. "This is the best way to crystallize the idea -- long-range projects sometimes Adon't have the momentum to really take off. But all of our subcommittees are committed to seeing us do this long-term. We've heard that from all of them. " 
By allowing members of subcommittees to pursue their own strengths and talents, Houston has empowered those who are  invested in improving college attainment in the region to make the biggest impact possible with the least amount of committee bloat. 

"That's kind of the way we do things in Houston," says Shaw. "If you let people do what they do best, and don’t muck with them too much, it really works."

Source: Ann Shaw, Center for Houston's Future
Writer: Amy Elliott Bragg

Signup for Email Alerts
Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts