Business Voice a Powerful Force for Change

The voice of business is a powerful thing.

When united, it can direct state investments that expand opportunity, close gaps between theory and practice, and give young people a clearer picture of the future they envision for themselves.

This was once again confirmed for me over three events that transpired in just eight days. One was with more than 100 leaders of Career and Technical Education (CTE) for their school districts. One was with more than 200 Career and Technical Education students. And one was Las Cruces Days in Santa Fe, organized by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce.

All confirmed just how important this county’s unprecedented partnership between the business community and education and workforce development efforts is, and how much we stand to gain when business engages even more deeply in preparing the workforce needed today and for the future.

At Las Cruces Days in Santa Fe, business and community leaders traveled to our capitol to represent the county’s best interests during the 2018 legislative session. Representatives from healthcare, aerospace, banking, small business, and many other industry sectors joined education and government leaders in sharing their perspectives with legislators working to devise good state policy and maximize the impact of the investments of precious state dollars.

Reminding us all that we are “Las Cruces Strong,” these leaders encouraged and thanked legislators for supporting economic and quality-of-life priorities, like the cross-state nursing compact and capital investments in our region. They also celebrated Spaceport Day on January 29, where Dan Hicks and his staff outlined what this asset means to our state’s economy and unique position in the rapidly growing space industry.

Just two days before that, a state meeting of Carl B. Perkins Administrators, or educators responsible for career development of students, revealed the need for expanded business voice in education. These leaders are working to bridge the gap from academic to economic success for students by preparing them for future careers.

Educators identified the five biggest challenges to connecting students to careers is, in order of importance:

  • Vision
  • Motivation
  • Exposure
  • Knowledge
  • Fear

The third event was for CTE students in the Las Cruces, Gadsden, and Hatch districts. While the majority of students did have specific career goals, not a single one identified someone in that career field as source of advice for getting there. However, a Gallup and Strata Network Survey showed that 80% to 85% of respondents who had earned two- and four-year degrees identified “person with experience in the field” in the top three most helpful sources of advice. And just as consistently, they identified high school counselors in the three least helpful sources of advice.

“Students cannot become what they cannot see,” said Jan Bray, the former leader of Advance CTE, and this survey confirms that education is only half of the partnership needed to prepare students for future success in the workforce. Many students don’t know what opportunities are available to them, even in their home communities. They aren’t sure they have what it takes to be successful. The voice of experience and encouragement could make a huge difference for them.

Nationally, the US Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and a host of philanthropic-minded corporations are harnessing the powerful voice of business in classrooms and with students and teachers. Each has advanced models for deeper, even more meaningful engagement in education and/or made significant investments to advance those models to literally build bridges from school to career.

It comes down to this…business holds the key to shaping the future of our region.  Business voice will close the pernicious soft skills gaps that plague an entire generation of young workers. Business voice will shape the development of career-ready young people who enter the world of work with purpose and direction – profoundly affecting the trajectory of them and their families. Business voice speaks loudly to policymakers working to help New Mexico realize the full potential of what’s possible here.

Thanks to our business community members for understanding their role and not hesitating to step into it. Your leadership is making change here possible.