A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Brent Cooper: Quality education is key to strong NKY economy; must focus on all components for success

It has been said that the economic vitality of any region is directly tied to the quality of educational opportunities that exist in the region.

It’s no wonder the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce places such a high degree of importance on P-20 education throughout our region. Indeed, we believe education is central to achieving our mission to promote and support the development of strong businesses and a vibrant economy. Families migrate to communities where there are quality schools. Likewise, companies choose to locate in those same communities to attract employees. The formula is quite simple, strong schools equal a strong local economy. Even those who do not have children in the school system benefit greatly from the positive economic impact on the community.

Ironically, because of the strong economic development that has occurred in Northern Kentucky, we are challenged with the continuous need for skilled workers. As a result, the NKY Chamber, led by our Chairwoman Rhonda Whitaker, has made workforce the number one priority, as we seek talent pipeline solutions for all NKY high demand sectors, and also continue to offer impactful connections and programming for our small and medium businesses.

Our focus is on developing a comprehensive workforce strategy which brings together key regional partners in a collaborative effort. Certainly, education will be a major component of that strategy. We have to grow the talent necessary to address our workforce needs.

The Summit on Education

This is why we are so supportive of efforts like the Northern Kentucky Education Council’s (NKYEC) Champions for Education Summit, recently held at Northern Kentucky University.

This important event, whose Hero Sponsors were Duke Energy and St. Elizabeth, brought together thought leaders throughout the community to learn about innovative initiatives, and influence regional outcomes. The NKYEC, as well as other education partners throughout the region, must continue working together with our members in order to ensure we are growing the talent pipeline in our region.

At the Education Summit, we heard from leaders like former NKU President Jim Votruba, who reminded us that addressing health and poverty issues is critical if we are to solve the challenges of education.

We also cannot get to where we want to go in the long-term without increasing the number of students that are ready for kindergarten. Quality child care and pre-school are essential components of a successful long-term strategy.

We must continue to support efforts like One-to-One reading, Junior Achievement, Navigo and Adopt-A-Class.

Another concept that was discussed at the Education Summit was the idea of creating a culture where “Every business in Northern Kentucky has an intern.”

We’ve been talking about this for some time.

At the Chamber Annual Dinner, we challenged the business community to support internships for students across the region. We know that getting students out of the classroom and into a business environment will arm them with valuable real-world experiences. These types of non-traditional educational opportunities will be key if we are to successfully address our workforce needs.

That message was reinforced at the Education Summit with several breakout sessions focused on best practices for apprenticeships, teacher externships and connecting students to employers via an online platform.

These types of real-world experiences can only happen if the business and education communities work collaboratively on behalf of our youth.

I invite you to be a part of the ongoing discussions on how business and education can collaborate. The more we work together, the stronger our economy will become.

As we consider ways to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities, it is very clear that what is good for education is also good for business.

Brent Cooper is head of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

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One Comment

  1. Chris Burns says:

    Thanks Brent for your leadership and for your support of P-20. As you know well, starting early with high quality education is critical because of the global economy. Also, creating a seamless structure between Pre-K, K-12 and post-secondary education, is a major step for helping students understand the progression. As business leaders, we have to engage students prior to high school to help them understand the opportunities that exist after they graduate, help them realize why high school is an important step in the education continuum, and what we expect as employers. Northern Kentucky is ahead of the rest of the state and for that we are blessed to have so many visionary leaders and committed communities that take these challenges seriously.

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