Consortium hosts Policy Committee hearing on partnerships between businesses and schools

Noting that partnerships with K-12 schools represent an avenue for doing it,  a PNC Financial Services Group executive told members of the state House Democratic Policy Committee that businesses need to “move beyond being simply consumers of talent to become investors in talent.”

The PNC executive, Joshua Stewart, Vice President and Director of Talent Programs & Accessibility, made the remark as part of his testimony at the Committee’s public hearing in early October. Rep. Austin Davis (D-McKeesport), a Committee member, asked us to host the hearing where members convened to learn about partnerships between businesses and schools, a key focus for the Consortium.

Consortium Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak (far left) in post-hearing discussion with Rep. Austin Davis (to her left); PNC’s Joshua Stewart (to her right) and IU-1 Assistant Executive Director Don Martin (far right)

Testifying along with Stewart were the Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak and Don Martin, Assistant Executive Director of Intermediate Unit I, which serves Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

Both Babyak and Stewart indicated that a workforce outlook from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development several years ago served as a call to action for collaborations between employers and K-12 schools. The report, titled Inflection Point, showed that retirements from the region’s workforce over the next decade would outpace growth in the pool of talent graduating from area high schools, creating significant workforce shortages.

Babyak said students often aren’t even aware of the opportunities regional employers can offer. They need help exploring careers and developing transferrable skills, among other supports, she said.  Babyak said employers can help fill those needs and their own by connecting with schools to create awareness about high-demand occupations and the skillsets they require and by helping students build pathways to careers.

Both she and Stewart pointed to the High School Collaborative as an example of businesses working with schools to  address student needs while building the workforce pipeline at the entry level. A partnership between PNC and the Consortium, the Collaborative offers pre-employment training to students while they’re still in high school. Aimed at students who plan to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate, the program this year will reach 2,400 juniors and seniors in 10 high schools and will provide opportunities to learn about and apply for entry-level jobs with four employers.

The program helps students develop the soft, transferrable skills that all employers seek and gives training in job search skills such as interviews and resume writing. It builds on a pilot launched last year in five high schools.