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Charleston pursues Cradle-to-Career Initiative, career readiness

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In Charleston, the greater community is rallying to create an environment where young people can reach their fullest potential. To that end, they're launching some new initiatives designed to maximize resources to support youth development from cradle to career, and help set young people on a path to be successful in that career.
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is one of several community partnerships helping to launch the Cradle to Career Initiative, which will use a collective impact model to align the work of organizations aimed at developing young people from birth to early adulthood. The idea, says Mary Graham, senior vice president of the Charleston Chamber, is to align the work of complementary organizations, identify gaps, and find a way to close them in order to maximize resources. 

"Some of it comes from the business community, who are looked to (in order) to fund so many of these organizations in the community, beginning to ask questions about putting the money where it really needs to go," she says.

For these businesses, the talent pipeline of future employees is a critical concern and addressing any unmet needs is crucial not only to employers, but to the entire community. "It's a quality of life issue," says Graham. "If we can raise education outcomes in the community, everyone benefits from that, not just employers."

Another initiative launching this fall is the Education and Development for Graduation and Employment (EDGE) Academies, schools within high schools that have a career focus. Academies will focus on STEM, health sciences and hospitality/culinary. Students would finish high school ready to start careers in their chosen field, althought they can opt to continue their education. The Chamber will fund scholarships for qualified student coming out of the academies who choose to pursue associate's degrees. The academies are aimed at first-generation college students and those who might not otherwise go on to college, but with some financial help and a sustainable job to support themselves while attending school might find it more feasible.
"As we have studied models for these around the country, what they tend to do is they begin to change the dialogue around the kitchen table about education," Graham says.

Source: Mary Graham, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce 
Writer: Amy Kuras

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