Strada Education Network: Engaging employers, educators and policymakers to build the workforce of the future

Strada Handshake

Daryl A. Graham, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy, shakes hand with employer at San Diego Forum

When the San Diego Workforce Partnership joined forces with The Strada Education Network, the Income Share Agreement fund came to fruition and is now paving the way for innovative, inclusive and accessible education in San Diego. 

We sat down with Chris Guidry, Vice President, Philanthropy at Strada for an in-depth look at how they’re building a better learning ecosystem through strategic partnerships and employer engagement. 

Tell us about Strada Education Network.

Strada is a national nonprofit, based in Indianapolis and Washington, DC. Our mission is to improve lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment.

We engage partners across education, nonprofits, business and government to focus relentlessly on students’ success throughout all phases of their working lives. We do that through research on what Americans value about their education after high school and on what skills and education will be required in the workplaces of the future. We do it through a network of affiliates who work directly to support students and postsecondary institutions, and we do it through philanthropy and investments.

In the past year, we have strategically invested more than $8 million to support great organizations working to connect education and employment and we are engaging with them to see what’s working well and what has the potential to scale.

Why did you invest in the San Diego Workforce Partnership?

In San Diego, through the partnership, there is so much great work being done to help working adults improve their lives through access to career-focused education that leads very quickly to meaningful employment where people can better support themselves and their families. At Strada, we’re so excited about the work you’re doing and the relationships you are building to connect policymakers, workforce and economic development, employers, educators, and learners of all ages and experiences to create a stronger learning and working ecosystem where people can get the support they need to succeed in high-demand, well-paying fields.

There is so much progress being made in San Diego, and at Strada we are very interested in supporting these efforts and seeing what might work in other cities around the country so we can help more people faster.

What’s something about education and talent development you wish people knew?

The main thing we are learning is that it takes collaboration and commitment from all stakeholders to build a strong education-to-workforce ecosystem. It seems like a simple idea, but it takes hard work. It takes policymakers, economic development experts, educators and employers all coming together to accomplish what none of them could do on their own.

Everyone must bring their skills and experience to the table and think creatively and collaboratively about what’s working, what’s not working, and how best to serve learners and workers while supporting our businesses and our communities.

Using reliable, real-time data on what jobs are available and what specific skills are needed in a particular city or region, we can work together to help learners educate themselves and gain new skills so they can continue to thrive in their careers and remain competitive, today and in the future.

Strada is committed to creating an inclusive talent pipeline from education to employment through business-led solutions. So much so, you’ve taken the conversation on the road. What are some of the most surprising things you’ve heard so far?

Over the past year, Strada has joined with our partners to host Employer Forums. We’ve hosted in Providence, San Diego and our hometown of Indianapolis to hear from employers about their struggles to attract and develop highly skilled talent and to learn from them how they are working with educators and policymakers to build a talent pipeline for the future while supporting their existing workers.

 

We have been so impressed by employers’ willingness to collaborate and to try new approaches. They know what skills they value most, and there is a willingness to invest in people and to support them in their education.

One of the most surprising things we’ve learned is how whole industries and whole communities are coming together to build the talent pool, not only to recruit talent for their own companies, but to support working adults and their efforts to improve themselves and progress in their careers, wherever they end up working. They have stopped competing for talent and instead are working together within their industries to build a highly skilled workforce to help everyone, and they are partnering with educators, not only to communicate their needs but also to help design and deliver a more meaningful curriculum that leads to a meaningful career path. This is the type of work Strada is proud to support because it helps real people right now.

What’s in store for Strada in 2020?

We are really looking forward to building on the investments we’ve made in collaborative education-to-employment initiatives around the country. In 2020, we’ll continue to support the great work of the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the work of our other strategic partners, and we will engage with new partners around the country to move our mission forward.

We’re confident that we will see real progress in the coming year as more people begin to collaborate and identify creative ways to help all Americans succeed in education, in the workforce, and in their lives.

Learn more at stradaeducation.org