When Businesses Partner with Students and Schools, Graduation Rates Get Better

Bill Kilbride

When businesses partner with students and schools, high school graduation rates improve. When businesses collaborate with community colleges and universities, curriculum is created that aligns with real-life job skills requirements. And when Chattanoogans work together, things change for the better.

That's where we are now in Hamilton County–at the spot where leaders will immerse themselves in the work needed to completely revamp our education system. As business leaders, we must work with educators to determine that we are, in fact, teaching skills that are needed for workforce development. We must also work together to ensure that 75 percent of our graduating high school seniors will earn a post-secondary credential because more than 80 percent of our jobs that pay a living annual wage require this.

The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Foundation Board of Directors and the 2,200 Chattanooga chamber membersrepresenting some 80,000 employees stand behind the need for change.

Whether you begin your search from a smartphone screen or you walk through library doors and flip through the pages of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, you can find thousands of quotes on the power of leadership in changing people’s lives. Pick your favorite and pin it to the top of your screen. You’ll notice that many leaders agree that real change starts with individuals making a commitment and convincing colleagues and friends to join them.

By now, as part of the Chattanooga 2.0 education initiative, scores of meetings have taken place to talk openly about the urgent need to help our students succeed and to determine action steps toward real change in our education system. If one of your neighbors or colleagues has not yet invited you to a meeting on education, it’s time for you to take action.

Ready to learn more? Start at Chatt2.org, where you can make a commitment to change for the better. For our students and our community. I’ll leave you with the one question I ask at the end of every presentation I make about our community’s education initiative: What happens if we do nothing?  

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