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In its effort to enhance Wisconsin’s understanding of the links between PK–12 education, the rest of Wisconsin’s educational infrastructure, and its relationship with local businesses and employers, the Wisconsin Education Business Roundtable (WEBR) has partnered with a variety of other organizations in support of three related initiatives, including Planning for Greatness (2011-2013), a Dane County focused effort dedicated to understanding the community-wide nature of the challenges and opportunities facing schools and neighborhoods; the Education Exchange (2013-2014), an initiative that grew out of the Planning for Greatness work to develop informed collaborations based on indepth, in-person explorations of successful, cutting-edge best practices in Wisconsin and around the country; and Voices from the Classroom (2013-2014), a groundbreaking effort to enhance understanding, communication and interaction between teachers, schools and local businesses that began with a unique survey of Wisconsin’s state-certified teachers and is evolving into a substantive statewide discussion about how to enhance and empower local efforts to build successful interactive bridges and connections between classrooms, schools, students and employers.

The Voices from the Classroom research underscores teacher and business leader interest in improved understanding and interaction and provides guidance in terms of what educators and business leaders need and want. Specifically, the research makes clear that teachers and business leaders share three goals, including: 1) Enriching teacher and business representative experience and understanding of the challenges and opportunities with which each sector is grappling; 2) informing, empowering and motivating students; and 3) improving communications and building relationships between education and business.

To these ends, the research concludes that, “… what is most needed at this particular juncture is the development of support mechanisms that will allow existing local and regional efforts to enhance their operational reach and capacity and help local and regional entities without such programs to initiate efforts in their areas. The support mechanisms should focus on four areas of activity, including:

  • collecting, managing and disseminating information that would enhance educator, business, policymaker and civic community understanding of relevant activities, best practices, new research, changes in technology, and other matters of applicable interest;
  • working with educators and business leaders to expand, enhance and/or develop opportunities for each group to gain a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the challenges and opportunities with which each respective group is grappling;
  • enhancing local and regional logistical and management skills related to school and business interaction, including creation of resource inventories, support services for collaborative efforts, and technological support for local information management initiatives;
  • providing periodic research insights into: a) educator and business leader opinions on the work being done to enhance interaction between schools and business; b) other school audiences’ (e.g., parents, students, administrators, elected officials) opinions on the challenges and opportunities they see in their schools; and c) general public opinion on these issues.

WEBR has partnered with the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), Madison Metropolitan School District, Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin, Career Advancement Network, and Leadership Greater Madison to build upon the academic and career planning (ACP) tools used by many of our region’s school districts by implementing InspireWisconsin in MadREP’s eight-county territory. The ACP tools are an invaluable means of aligning student interests and skill sets with the career pathways available in today’s workforce. Not only do these tools help students better understand their career options and the academic roadmap necessary to prepare for those options; they give students a stake in their futures which is a proven way to enhance academic achievement and workforce readiness.

The Inspire Madison Region initiative is intended to enrich the local ACP process for students of all backgrounds, parents and educators by applying the InspireWisconsin model and online platform to develop working partnerships with local employers in order to benefit all those who care about, and are engaged with, talent development. We sincerely believe these working partnerships will result in powerful, meaningful and immediate benefits for everyone engaged, such as:

Benefits to Employers

  • Opportunity to proactively engage with the education community to tailor curriculum and programming to address current and future workforce needs;
  • Opportunity to directly enhance career readiness through work-based learning and career coaching opportunities; and
  • Opportunity to keep future workforce talent-pool in the Madison region.

Benefits to Educators

  • Stronger collaboration with local employers to better understand future workforce demands;
  • Stronger connections with local business and community resources for advancing personalized academic and career pathway planning for students; and
  • Stronger relationship development between the local academic and business communities.

Benefits to Students and Parents

  • Exposure to local companies that offer careers in their area of interest/expertise;
  • Exposure to local work-based learning opportunities; and
  • Exposure to real-time mentoring and career coaching in career cluster areas of interest.

If you are an employer in the MadREP region, please take the time to engage with this critical initiative by visiting the Inspire Madison Region website and adding your company profile to the platform.