Talent Dividend Work

Focus and collaboration are key to success

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In order for a city to win the Talent Dividend Prize, many different moving parts must come together. The business community, educational institutions, and students themselves all must discover their common interest in raising the degree attainment rate.
One city that's done very well at that is Columbia, South Carolina. Through The Graduation Imperative, they have engaged foundations, the Chamber of Commerce, nine local colleges and universities, and civic groups to come together with their eyes on the prize.
Currently, only 27 percent of South Carolinians have a bachelors degree or higher. Raising that number is key to the city's success in the 21st century economy, and several concerned groups were already working to change it. Dangling the Talent Dividend's $1 million prize helped get them working together toward their common purpose.
Several initiatives have been launched to encourage college graduation and help students overcome the obstacles to getting there. For example, the Central Carolina Community Foundation's Jo Bull, who serves as one of the main point people on the project, got together with college and university provosts to hear what some of the main barriers were to going to and staying in college. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest barriers was financial, so the Graduation Imperative found ways to publicize scholarships available through the CCCF and other means.
They also realized there was a problem of focus among students. There are high-demand jobs available for college graduates, but students need to know about them as early as middle school so they can get on a educational path and focus their time in school toward their goal. That saves time and money since students aren't wasting efforts on courses they don't need.
They've planned a career fair for next summer to teach students about those jobs, the education needed to get them and what schools offer the degrees they need. The goal is ensuring that young people are prepared for the type of jobs available in the coming years, says JoAnn Turnquist from the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

"By 2018, we're going to have 667,000 jobs available, and only 200,000 of those are eligible for high school graduates or below," says Turnquist.  
Focus and collaboration have been key to their accomplishments, Turnquist says.

"We have a really engaged group of people. It really has been sitting down and brainstorming what works and what kinds of programs we can do for measurable success -- not just concepts, but four or five measurable things."

Writer: Amy Kuras 
Source: Central Carolina Community Foundation
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