ACT Foundation announces effort to bridge business-education divide

Posted: October 4th, 2013

At its official launch in Austin, Texas, ACT Foundation unveiled the creation of a new alliance among key industry stakeholders to help bridge the divide between business and education and expand pathways to employment for working learners. Established by ACT Foundation and Business Roundtable, the National Network of Business and Industry Associations (National Network) will represent the voice and influence of business with a goal to help design learning solutions that will ensure an educated, skilled 21st-century workforce.

“We need to make sure the job creators are front and center in the national dialogue about learning solutions for working learners,” said Parminder K. Jassal, founding executive director, ACT Foundation. “As we expand access to learning that working learners need to enter and advance in the labor market, we need to understand from employers what skills and competencies they value, and ensure that the learning—however and wherever it happens—is better linked to successful job performance.”

“It’s in our best interests, and our members’ best interests, to come together and generate solutions,” said Dane Linn, vice president, Business Roundtable. “We need new models that show improved outcomes for the most disadvantaged people in this country.”

Attendees at the Austin meeting included several of the National Network’s inaugural members, representing a range of industries. The group articulated an agenda that will focus on creating a blueprint of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for career growth and success in core economic sectors, and defining the standards for credentials that validate those skills. Other items include conducting research to fill gaps in the understanding of key issues and delivering an informational campaign to stakeholders that generates awareness of the diverse learning pathways available to in-demand jobs.

ACT Foundation and Business Roundtable will continue to bolster and grow the National Network, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates, Joyce, and Lumina Foundations.

“We need better alignment between workforce and education,” said Holly Zanville of Lumina Foundation, an investor in the National Network.

Whitney Smith, director of Joyce Foundation’s Employment Program, sees “promise in foundations’ lending support to new, competency-based training models.”  However, she added, “we have a long way to go, particularly in how employers hire and what they look for. We’re still using degrees as proxies for learning.”