A Publication of WTVP

A progress update on the Peoria Pathways to Prosperity initiative…

Question: What do you get when you combine government, private business, a union, higher education and a school district?

Answer: A bureaucracy incapable of accomplishing anything and unwilling to negotiate change.

Not so fast with the cynicism, folks. The Peoria Pathways to Prosperity initiative is proving that we can team up for the good of the community, notch some wins and build a system that works for employers and our future workforce. The true answer to the aforementioned question is: optimism, success and strength.

Introducing Pathways
Last October, I introduced the Peoria Pathways to Prosperity initiative to iBi readers, and now, as we prepare for a new school year, I am pleased to relay the good work of the team. To refresh your memory, our partners include: Peoria Public Schools, Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 780, City of Peoria, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, CEO Council, Illinois Central College, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Peoria County Regional Office of Education, Pathways to Prosperity Network and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Whew! The leadership of these organizations is committed to our community—and we know we have to get this right. Education and workforce development cannot be siloed as an economic, quality-of-life or business retention issue… It is an everything issue!

Last June, the partner organizations signed a joint resolution holding all of us accountable for portions of the plan. Mayor Ardis has been a champion of the initiative, and through his office, we were able to retain volunteer leadership from Bill Collier and Paula Davis, a couple of retired (and energized) school superintendents from Dunlap and Pekin, respectively. Their combined expertise and community relationships have proven invaluable.

Progress in Implementation
The initial resolution charged the partner stakeholders to set forth on this collaborative work, requiring a several-year commitment to accomplish lasting results. To that end, the Peoria Pathways to Prosperity Working Team has met semi-monthly since last November. Its primary task has centered around responses to the “Levers for Implementation” identified in the Asset Mapping Report from Jobs for the Future (JFF). JFF is our national partner, serving the important role of connecting communities from 10 states and providing objective, research-based solutions to ensure young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in our economy.

Progress has been made in the following four areas of implementation recommended by JFF:

District 150 has provided an inventory of existing programs, as well as a roadmap to fully implement the Career Cruising and Inspire software, which will formalize and significantly improve connectivity among students, educators, workforce development professionals and employers. Students at both the middle-school and high-school levels will have complete access and the ability to realize the profound benefits provided by this connection. In addition, District 150 and Illinois Central College are providing opportunities for all 10th and 11th graders to further explore their interests in career and technical education opportunities.

The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and CEO Council, along with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, continue to serve as the primary resource for employer engagement. With 1,110 business members, the Chamber will help populate the Inspire software with internship and workplace training opportunities. Meanwhile, the CEO Council has committed to the creation of 1,000 workplace experience opportunities across the region, which will certainly enhance this growing effort.

Leveraging Funding and Recognition
It is important to express how far we have grown with financial support. Last year, the partner organizations contributed $25,000 for the purpose of supporting our community work. This investment has been leveraged to earn some significant funding and recognition for Peoria. First, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) approved five cities for significant funding through its Innovation Grant program. Peoria received $65,000 to help fund employment and software, while joining some strong company.

As reported in The New York Times (6/21/15), the AFT is “building on a successful and growing approach in New York City… jumpstarting Career Technical Education in Miami; Peoria, IL; Pittsburgh; and San Franciso… In each city, unions, businesses, community colleges, school districts and local government are coming together to support and expand CTE pathways that match the local labor market.” Peoria Federation of Teachers President Jeff Adkins-Dutro, a vital member of our Working Team, was instrumental in relaying Peoria’s story and securing this significant validation of our work.

In addition, Peoria received an Illinois 60×25 grant of $7,000; as a result, we have been named an Illinois 60×25 Leadership Community and will be recognized as a 2015 recipient of the College Changes Everything Champion Award. College Changes Everything is a college access initiative started by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to support the state’s goal of increasing the proportion of adults in Illinois with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.

Wow! Twelve months of work in less than 1,000 words, with much more to come. This truly is a project to celebrate—and one that demonstrates the strength and courage of our community. There is so much more to do, and I encourage you to share our optimism that the good work will be accomplished for the families and businesses of Peoria. iBi