Local group is building bridges from school to jobs

By the Southern Oregon Education Leadership Council – Mail Tribune

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Last Sunday’s paper featured an article that was headlined, “Educators failing to teach what students need for good jobs.” The article provided highlights from a recent report issued by Strada and the Lumina Foundation: “Bridge Builders: How Intermediaries Can Connect Education and Work in a Postpandemic World.” The report — worth reading in its entirety — discusses how government, chambers of commerce, civic organizations, workforce development boards and other community entities can help ensure that educators are helping learners develop skills that meet regional needs, now and in the future.

We are proud to announce that such “bridge building” is alive and well here in the Rogue Valley. A group of us — business and political leaders, employers, educators and workforce developers — have been meeting since last summer. We have formed the Southern Oregon Education Leadership Council to ensure that our educational efforts are aligned with workforce needs, serve all learners and employers, and use resources efficiently. We will help our region recover from last fall’s fires and the pandemic. We will help our economy to be more prosperous and our communities more inclusive and equitable.

Our ongoing work includes the development of: A “college and career access network” that will guide all learners in this region as they achieve their education and career goals; Career “pathways” and “meta-majors” that will enable learners to move seamlessly and efficiently from high school to post-secondary education and employment — and ensure that they have the skills needed to succeed all along the way; Strategic alignment of K-12 and higher education by expanding the use of the Rogue Valley Employability Readiness Rubric to assess personal skills and career-related learning development; Guaranteed admission to RCC and SOU for all students graduating from regional, accredited high schools with a GPA of 2.5 or higher; Common course numbering for RCC and SOU general education courses and a reverse transfer option — enabling credits earned at either institution to be applied toward programs at the other — ensuring a seamless transfer between institutions; Improved communications to help high school students and their families better understand how to get the most out of “dual credit” courses and federal financial aid; Short-term credentials such as badges and certificates that are aligned with workforce needs and may be “stacked” toward the attainment of two- or four-year degrees, if desired; Continued expansion of on-the job internships for high school and college students in the local workforce.

We are ahead of the game here in Southern Oregon, already doing the work called for in the Strada/ Lumina report, and we plan to expand our network in the future. We appreciate your support andassistance as we work to ensure that all learners in our region have the skills they need to succeed in their chosen careers and to have fulfilled lives as members of our amazing communities. 

The Southern Oregon Education Leadership Council includes Bret Champion, superintendent, Medford School District; Cathy Kemper-Pelle, president, Rogue Community College; Kirk Kolb, superintendent, Grants Pass School District; State Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland; Linda Schott, president, Southern Oregon University; and Bill Thorndike, president of Medford Fabrication and member of the SOU Board of Trustees; Kevin Talbert, Roger Stokes and Pat Fahey, RCC board members; and Jim Fong, executive director, Rogue Work force Partnership.