What to expect at the National Talent Dividend Meeting, April 8-9

2012 National Talent Dividend Meeting in Houston, TX
2012 National Talent Dividend Meeting in Houston, TX

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One thing that sets the Talent Dividend Prize apart from other college completion efforts is a focus on collaboration. Rather than directing all their efforts into one sector, cities competing for the Talent Dividend Prize are required to work across sectors, partnering the moral call to education from higher ed with the business sector's hunger for growth and the workforce development sector's desire to bridge the two and make sure skills learned in college match the jobs that employers need to fill.
That's a complex mix of motivations working toward the same goal. And that's why the 2013 Talent Dividend Meeting, taking place April 8-9 in Philadelphia, is so important.
"We think when you have cross-sector involvement, you have a more realistic chance of putting together a more sustainable and outcomes-based plan," says Noel Harmon, national director of the Talent Dividend. "We want to create an environment at the meeting where everyone can learn from one another."
To that end, the theme of cross-sector collaboration will run throughout the meeting. Harmon will kick things off with a report on where the Talent Dividend Initiative stands in 2013, followed by a business and higher education roundtable featuring university presidents and CEOs discussing the importance of college completion. 
Jim Applegate of the Lumina Foundation (one of the major sponsors of the Talent Dividend Prize) will present the keynote address on how cities can mobilize to reach Goal 2025, Lumina's effort to see 60 percent of the nation's adults with a college degree by 2025. 
Joe Cortright, president and chief economist of Impresa Consulting, will present a brief report on progress made by each city in the first year of the competition.
An especially interesting presentation will be on geospatial mapping by Peter Winograd, Director of the Center for Education Policy Research at the University of New Mexico. Winograd uses maps of metro areas and creates visual representations of all kinds of data to see how they intersect with each other. For example, he can contrast fifth grade success and the high school graduation rate in that same community several years later. "It's a cool visual way to show how different aspects of a community impact college completion," Harmon says.
Among the most exciting offerings, she adds, is that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is taping a message for meeting attendees. 
"Arne Duncan is taking time to film a message directly to the Talent Dividend, and one of his assistants will be there," she says. "He's filled in Secretary Duncan about this initiative, which we hope will be a point of motivation for folks, that [Duncan is] aware of the work being done."
Afternoon workshops touch on a variety of useful topics, including: using data to drive your city's Talent Dividend; effectively sharing your city's Talent Dividend story; supporting low-income, minority and adult students; and developing cross-sector partnerships at the local level.
Tuesday features a networking breakfast, a keynote address from Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, and a panel on sustaining and connecting cross-sector partnership for post-secondary completion. 
The planning committee has been working on the meeting since November, says Harmon. They chose Philadelphia, among other reasons, because the city has been doing some good work on the Talent Dividend and around the greater issue of college completion. It also offers opportunities for unique venues and activities. The conference will be held at the headquarters of public radio and TV broadcaster WHYY, which any public radio fan knows as the home of interview program Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross. Gross is scheduled to greet attendees at the evening reception Monday night. 
Garces Catering, which is the catering arm of the restaurant group headed by chef Jose Garces, will provide food. Garces is one of the Iron Chefs featured on Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and has 15 restaurants in five cities as well as an organic farm that provides produce to the group's East Coast restaurants and a foundation which supports immigrants in the Philadelphia area. 
There's fun to be had, as well. Optional tours of Independence Hall on Monday afternoon provide a look at one of the most significant sites in American history. Attendees can get a taste of Philadelphia's food scene with group dinners at a variety of restaurants on Monday night.
Harmon says she hopes attendees will come away with a greater sense of the impact the Talent Dividend is having nationwide, and having made connections that will spur creative solutions when they return home. 
"When you all come together to see what progress is being made, and celebrate even small victories, it provides motivation to keep moving forward," she says. "I hope people leave with a renewed sense of purpose in what they are doing and with excitement for continuing the work."

The Talent Dividend National Meeting will be held April 8-9 at WHYY Public Radio. For more information about the conference or to register, visit here.

Amy Kuras is a Detroit-based freelance writer.
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