PLATTSBURGH — SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher joined area leaders at Clinton Community College Wednesday to launch an effort to strengthen the county's education pipeline.
The Clinton County Workforce Development Roundtable will serve as a "cradle to career" network made up of area civic and education leaders and elected officials, striving for success in area education and career development.
"It's cradle — and some would say prenatal — attention to early childhood all the way through post-secondary success and career placement," Zimpher told community members at the launch.
FIRST RURAL BASE
The group is part of the Strive Network, an education-reform initiative co-founded by Zimpher in the Cincinnati area, which has spread to several cities throughout the country.
Clinton County is the first rural area in the nation to participate in the initiative.
Members of the roundtable group include the North Country Chamber of Commerce, the Development Corporation, North Country Workforce Investment Board and leaders from county school districts, Plattsburgh State and Clinton Community College.
"One of the advantages of being a small community like this is that we all know each other," said John Jablonski, president of Clinton Community College and a member of the network.
"We formed quickly as a workforce development roundtable, (and) we identified a mission and a vision for our collaborative."
Zimpher said one of the major problems to be addressed by the Development Roundtable will be how to keep kids, as well as teachers, in school.
"We have as many leaks in the teacher pipeline as we do in the student pipeline, and, in three years or less, teachers who serve in rural and urban communities will drop out at a rate of 50 percent."
Members of the network spoke of how promoting success in education will also help strengthen the area's workforce and economic development.
"It's important to recognize the link between workforce development, economic development and education, and those three things are so closely linked, especially in small communities," said Paul Grasso, executive director of the North Country Regional Workforce Investment Board.
Grasso said there is a need to engage young people sooner in the education process and instill in them how critical learning is to career success.
BUILDING THE WORKFORCE
Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, explained that the clearest way to increase the appetite for learning is for the community to provide good jobs and career options for students to strive for.
If the community can develop a large and able workforce, Douglas said, that, in turn, will attract commerce to the area because companies need to believe that the community can meet their needs.
Zimpher said the success of the group relies heavily on having a shared community vision, taking collaborative action and evidence-based decision making.
"In forming a table where all the key stakeholders come together and hammer out a vision, we will have taken the critical first step," she said.
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