Best Practices
March 15, 2011

Greater Louisville Inc. Makes Higher Education Attainment an Economic Priority

Greater Louisville Chamber of Commerce

In Louisville, Kentucky, education, workforce development, and economic competitiveness have become interchangeable. With an employer base that includes UPS, Humana, and Papa John's, as well as being a significant health sciences research hub, the needs of employers grow more sophisticated every year.In 2005, the local chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), sought to create a sustainable and competitive business climate by focusing on talent, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of place. After working through a number of indicators in workforce development, the chamber decided to create a series of initiatives dedicated to improving one area of concern -- higher education attainment.

To meet this challenge, the chamber created a partnership that in turn founded the HIRE (Higher Income Requires Education) Education Forum. As of today, 31 schools are participating as partners in HIRE, with several more postsecondary institutions poised to join within the coming months. The Forum reflects a diverse array of higher education institutions, representing all facets of postsecondary education and provides flexible options for every resident and employer of our community.

"HIRE's mission is to function as a regional clearinghouse that fosters what we like to call 'coopetition'," says Kathy Zandona, Director of Education. "By uniting the local post-secondary community with the purpose of aligning post-secondary activities with regional community economic development goals, we can form the foundation of a regionally responsive workforce development system. By increasing post-secondary graduation rates, more young workers enter the job market career-ready."

In its first three years of existence, the HIRE Education Forum has created a number of great initiatives and programs which put higher education in the spotlight, among them: Graduate! Greater Louisville: GED to PhD, an overall community initiative with the goal of increasing college participation, persistence, retention, and graduation rates; Chief Learning Council, a council of learning officers from community employers organized to create awareness of educational options for employers and our community's employed workforce.; College Day Out!, a program designed to allow 8th graders in Jefferson County Public Schools to experience college in half a day and whet their appetites to learn more about college; Spring Fling: How to Get Back into School - a program that specifically targets those students who did not finish a credential while enrolled as an undergraduate in any college or university; and, Customer Contact Certification, which provides a means for students to gain 18 undergraduate semester credit hours of college curriculum.