Last year, Rasmuson Foundation invested $1 million in a bold plan to boost Anchorage graduation rates through a broad community initiative spearheaded by United Way of Anchorage. In today’s guest post, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Halcro outlines a role for the business community in improving graduation rates in the city.
Posted by Andrew Halcro, President, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
United Way of Anchorage (UWA) recently asked Anchorage Chamber of Commerce members the following question: Are you finding all the employees you require with the skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to grow your business?
The question was rhetorical. According to the latest Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC ) confidence index report, 58 percent of businesses cite the shortage of professional/technical workers, 51 percent cite the shortage of semi-skilled workers, and 50 percent cite poor job readiness of entry level workers.
Anchorage businesses are not alone in their struggle. Many teenagers are not graduating from high school ready to join local companies or go on to higher education.
Reasons students report for dropping out are varied and complicated. “I stopped going to school because I didn’t see the point.” “My best friend dropped out because he needed to support his family.” “I stopped coming because I felt like nobody cared if I showed up.” “Sarah didn’t graduate because she had to stay home and take care of her baby.” “My best friend stopped going to school, and he pressured me to do the same.”
Teens also report the inability to visualize a job or career future for themselves, and a lack of adults in their lives to positively motivate them as obstacles to graduation.
The conclusions drawn from these statistics are clear. The community needs to ensure kids start school ready and stay engaged and on track. Students need to achieve regular attendance, develop positive behaviors, and make good choices in order to graduate equipped to join the workforce or continue on to higher education.
These two problems, the lack of prepared workers and barriers to graduation, are interrelated but are within the community’s power to improve.