The Transform Rockford movement is about connecting people with opportunities. And we believe great opportunities exist here in the region – opportunities for residents, visitors, and investors.
The Linking Talent with Opportunity project is all about connecting residents to career pathways that lead to successful and fulfilling careers. These pathways begin in middle school when students have a chance to become familiar with careers and think about their own talents and interests. The pathways accelerate in high school when students receive education and skills that prepare them for specific higher education tracks and/or employment opportunities.
Much of the work of the Linking Talent with Opportunity project is to align those higher education tracks (which can lead to degrees, certifications or other credentials) with the high school work into a regional set of pathways for the careers needed in our 21st-century economy. The goal is to create a seamless pathway experience for the student that leads to a fulfilling career opportunity.
This will be a good test of our region’s capacity for collaboration. The work has begun with a partnership among local community colleges and high schools. Launch partners include Rock Valley College, Highland Community College, Rockford Public Schools, Harlem School District, Belvidere School District and Hononegah Community School District.
Building and filling these career pathways with the region’s talented residents will provide an important economic development tool. “There is not a more significant opportunity and no higher priority in my view than workforce development,” said Nathan Bryant, president/CEO of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.”
Funding for much of the work is coming from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, which made a three-year commitment for a total of $675,000 to make the goal a reality – its largest single commitment ever.
“(W)e see a rare and refreshing consensus among partners who have both the capacity and willingness to make change happen. Real and relevant design work has already been done, and the education partners have a plan to engage more school districts, continue design work and align with economic and workforce development partners for critical input.”
Connecting Talent with Opportunity is a significant part of the larger effort of building a top-notch workforce that attracts and grows investment, residents, and employers. Watch for other related efforts in coming months. As Doug Jensen, President of Rock Valley College and a Transform Rockford Steering Committee member, recently said, “I believe we will become a national center of workforce development excellence.”
Thank you to all of the partners joining the effort to make Linking Talent with Opportunity a success.