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ROLLING the DICE Tony Hsieh’s

Tony Hsieh’s $350 million dollar gamble on Las Vegas Finding True North Scaling Solutions

When Destiny Calls A Manufacturing Legacy

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Collaborating Through Words s we go to print on this edition of The Innovation Intake, i reflect on why we chose to publish a magazine while also trying to run a nonprofit. it really came down to the desire to create a collaborative space where ideas, innovations and impact could flourish through the power of the written word. The Innovation Intake magazine has allowed us to meet partners, elevate relationships, and highlight innovators that truly have a passion for educating others and impacting future workforce in the U.s. we have gotten to know our friends better, understand what makes them who they are, and see a glimpse of why they are doing the work they are doing. From Kareem Abdul Jabbar (summer 2012) to ross perot (Fall 2012), we have gotten to learn more about vision and what keeps highly successful individuals motivated. But most of all, our conversations leading up to the articles have led us to believe that at the heart of all of our work is a passion for disruption and change. with this issue we feature leaders from across the country. And leadership is really the capacity to translate vision into reality. it is the ability to create a movement that others believe is real enough to join in. From the downtown project and the work of Qualifyor to the large industry nonprofit ComptiA leading it training, each of the leaders we spoke to believe that their work will impact lives and make a difference in the future of education to employment. As Margaret thatcher once said, “don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you”. we thank each of our features in this edition for being a crowd leader, and for giving us another glimpse into collaboration and leadership.


Jamai Blivin, Ceo, innovate+educate


PUBLISHER p.o. Box 9919 santa Fe, nM 87504 EDITOR


Amy schilling DESIGN

Mary sweitzer design

IN THIS ISSUE: Meet a Manufacturing Champion 12


incubox Creative CONTACT All contents © 2013 innovate+educate. no part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent from innovate+educate. permission to reprint may be sent to publisher reserves the right to accept or reject all advertising material. Questions or comments not related to the innovation intake should be directed to All opinions expressed are those of the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innovation Intake or innovate+educate.

FEATURES FINDING TRUE NORTH (TRUENRTH) | 6 scaling solutions for greater impact ROLLING THE DICE | 8 the downtown project in Las Vegas is a good bet WHEN DESTINY CALLS | 12 one man’s life-long journey with manufacturing





Closing the Skills Gap and Bridging the Opportunity Divide By Elizabeth Hyman, Vice President of Public Advocacy, CompTIA

here Are dozens of bills in Congress that address the need to get more young people into science, technology, engineering and math (steM), and more high-skilled workers into the United states. think tanks and statitisticians see the trend. steM jobs are growing faster than nonsteM jobs, particularly in it occupations, and there simply are not enough U.s. graduates to fill these slots. our nation is competing globally for innovation and advancement and lest we address the challenge of how to close the skills gap and opportunity divide, we run the risk of falling behind. Yet, this national push toward steM is just a little sliver of a bigger puzzle. technology underpins almost every sector of our economy, so not only do we need highly skilled steM workers to advance innovation, but we also need career-ready, knowledge workers – people who are comfortable with using technology to advance their work in a particular sector. As a non-profit trade association and the leading provider of vendor-neutral it workforce certifications, ComptiA has a unique vantage point with respect to what the challenges are, and what we can do collectively to meet these challenges. so where do we begin? how do we in the private sector work with the education system to meet the challenges of the skills gap? to do this, we need to start early in the ecosystem and examine how we are going to



College of DuPage Professor Clyde Cox coaches students during CIT 1111, the college's Computer and Internetworking Technologies course that corresponds to the CompTIA A+ exam.

“ . . . this national push toward STEM is just a little sliver of a bigger puzzle.� help young people get into careers that are it specific and prepare them to be a knowledge worker for whatever industry they decide to pursue. ComptiA believes that training and credentialing young people with industry-recognized workforce certifications is a powerful tool to achieve this end.

there are terrific examples already underway that are focused on credentialing young people earlier so that they are ready and prepared to step into the workforce. the pathways to prosperity network, a collaboration of states, Jobs for the Future, and the pathways to prosperity project at harvard graduate school of education, seeks to ensure that many more youth complete high school and attain a workforce credential with currency in the labor market. each participating state is engaging educators and


employers in building a system of grades 914 career pathways, combining high school and community college. such pathways are intended to launch young people into initial careers, while leaving open the prospect of further education. At the postsecondary level, colleges have added certifications into their curriculum to make sure learning matches workplace needs. ten years ago, the College of dupage, in glen ellyn, ill., began to redesign its computer hardware and networking curricula to embed the goals of it industry certifications into the program. the college sought to grow the program by offering clearly defined ways for its diverse student population to gain it career-relevant skills and industry credentials. the college's Computer and internetworking technologies (Cit) program now offers two Associate in Applied science (A.A.s.) degrees and 10 certificate options built around ComptiA and other it industry certifications. As a result, from 2006 to 2011, the Cit program grew nearly 13 percent annually, expanding into additional classrooms and labs, plus four off-site locations. Another initiative of note is the iBM ptech program (pathways in technology early College high school), a public-private partnership preparing hundreds of new York students for high-skill jobs of the future. p-teCh incorporates a six-year program that combines high school, college and career training. each student will have the opportunity to graduate with an Associate’s degree in Applied science. these programs reinforce the connection between certification and this new ed-

There are terrific examples already underway that are focused on credentialing young people earlier so that they are ready and prepared to step into the workforce. ucational paradigm that is developing. the next step is to enhance work-based learning, where young people can take their education “out for a spin” in various internships, apprenticeships and other professional realms. recently, todd thibodeaux, the Ceo of ComptiA presented one of the nation’s first cyber resumes at the Cyber Maryland Conference. An organization called LifeJourney has established a web-based interactive classroom experience that allows students to “test drive” future careers in cy-

bersecurity by living a day in the life of the nation’s cybersecurity leaders through the America’s LifeJourney Mentors program. students are getting to choose from over 100 different cybersecurity LifeJourneys (e.g., digital forensic analyst, threat manager, Ciso, data scientist) produced by leading companies, including rsA, Cyberpoint, symantec, Lockheed Martin, damballa, safenet, Kaspersky, tripwire, KeYw, Koolspan, hexis Cyber solutions, general dynamics, Convergence, sourcefire, Battelle, techguard, Copt and others. each student will receive a detailed report on the skills they’ll need to achieve their intended goals, including a fully updated Cyber resume that illustrates each step on their future journey to achieve an internship and job. this is the type of innovative approach that is needed to marry traditional education, to career training to work-based learning. i see activities taking place around the country that serve as avenues to success while closing the skills gap and bridging the opportunity divide. it is not just about higher skilled steM workers; it is about young workers capable of succeeding in a knowledge economy. n Elizabeth Hyman, CompTIA’s Vice President of Public Advocacy, is responsible for outreach to members of Congress, the Executive Branch, government agencies and other organizations at the federal, state and local levels of government that shape and influence public policy affecting the IT industry. Hyman is a graduate of Tufts University and holds a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University.

Elizabeth Hyman



This is new soil, new space and requires a tenacity to keep moving forward. Assessments are being validated, employers are key to the system change and we will continue to unleash the innovation that is so needed in education to employment.

Finding Our (or TrueNrth) arlier this year we featured an article in The Innovation Intake written by myself and dr. Merrilea Mayo titled, “the new world of work:From education to employment”. we did not anticipate the feedback that followed. overall, everyone said, “Yes, we agree.” But, many also said, “oK, i get the need for a disruptive solution, but how will this really be done on a larger scale?” i hated that we didn’t really have the answer. there needed to be a “marketplace” for all this work. After reading comments from readers, our team gathered at our weekly brainstorming session where employees and consultants throw out ideas, push the envelope and figure out how to create a new system of education to employment. we discussed the need to Satish Menon, CEO, UV Labs. scale our findings and research, but how? what existed to do this? then came truenrth, like a shooting star – appearing when you least expect it but always when you need it most (i believe they are magic and send us signs when we are fortunate enough to see one). At our first face-to-face meeting in Chicago’s Midway airport delta Club (we never left the airport), we charted out the course. we examined the potential for innovate+educate and truenrth to create a collaboration that can show the tremendous impact of an innovative for-profit start-up working with a nonprofit to drive system change. truenrth’s leadership is what sold me on the partnership. satish

Menon is brilliant, kind and inspiring. his passion for authentic human capital development, and his years at Apollo group, Yahoo, georgia tech, Bell Labs and other start-ups bring him years of knowledge (and perhaps a few scars). Joseph deck, an elevenyear veteran at Yahoo brings tremendous expertise in strategy and product usability as well as the willingness to chart a course, make a few diversions, learn and evolve. he is witty and thoughtful in our meetings and discussions. All four of the co-founders worked at Yahoo, three of them worked in education where they built personalized learning platforms, heavily relying on the use of formative assessments for diagnostics. they are supported in their quest by University Ventures and its managing director, ryan Craig, who writes the witty and insightful blog: UV Letter ( this is new soil, new space and requires a tenacity to keep moving forward. Assessments are being validated, employers are key to the system change and we will continue to unleash the innovation that is so needed in education to employment. the world of skills-based credentials is upon us. we hope you will join us for the journey. please welcome truenrth as a partner of innovate+educate’s as we expand our work to new markets in 2014. n

By Jamai Blivin, CEO, Innovate+Educate T H E I N N O VAT I O N I N TA K E


Rolling theDice on the Downtown Project Gambling in Las Vegas is nothing new - gambling on the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas is Tony Hsieh’s, the CEO of, latest ad/venture. And given his track record, he’s a pretty good bet.

By Amy Schilling, Managing Editor

Downtown Project will integrate learning into everyday business by empowering citizens to become teachers, advisors and role models. The Downtown Project downtown project is a group of passionate people committed to helping transform downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world. their focus is in the Fremont east area of downtown and they’ve allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of downtown through investments in real estate, education, small businesses and tech startups. their goal? to accelerate community and co-learning through the serendipitous interactions of the people of downtown Las Vegas. Why $350 million? they’ve allocated $50 million to invest in small businesses that meet the following criteria: passion, Community Contribution, execution, sustainability, Uniqueness (or the “Best of what you do”) and finally, is it story worthy. Another $50 million goes to tech start-ups and $50 million for arts, culture and education. Finally, $200 million is being invested in real estate and development.

10 T H E I N N O V A T I O N I N T A K E

What is the focus for arts and education? First Friday Las Vegas is a monthly art walk that attracts approximately 25,000 people to downtown each month. downtown project also recently opened 9th Bridge school, with a focus on neuroscience and social emotional learning, as well as creativity and entrepreneurship. What are the biggest challenges? the downtown project is investing a total of $100 million in small businesses and tech start-ups so they need a talent ecosystem to staff those companies, as well as zappos and other businesses that will either start in or move to Las Vegas as a result of the downtown project. this is challenging because Las Vegas doesn’t have a reputation for attracting talent from other tech hubs and they are home to only one local four year institution, which has a very small computer science program. they often lose local talent to other cities because of a perceived lack of professional opportunity outside of the casinos. How is Downtown Project addressing these challenges? the downtown project is working with traditional players like teach for America, as well as startups like Venture for America and Qualifyor to come up with novel approaches involving more hands-on community focused learning. Qualifyor teaches high school and college aged students soft skills like problem solving and communications and then works with companies who hire the students for short-term projects (read more about Qualifyor in ‘on the streets’, page 20), while Venture for America has recruited 15 top college graduates from around the nation, who are passionate about entrepreneurship, to support the downtown project and the businesses it is backing. What does success look like? tony and the downtown project team have three straightforward goals: 1) to create a live/work/play environment in downtown Las Vegas. 2) to help create the most community-focused large city in the world. 3) to create the co-working/co-learning capital of the world.

Tony Hsieh, CEO, Š, Inc.

When Destiny Calls:

The Building of a Manufacturing Legacy


estinY CAn Be stronger than anything in life. i was born into a family that would become known for manufacturing prominence. it all started with my grandfather in 1925, as a 16 year old, sweeping floors at a Chicago machine tool builder. he was an honorable and brilliant man and everyone in the family benefitted from our genetic connection. no one knew it at the time, but the next 80+ years would prove a lot in that regard. i was born in Chicago, the manufacturing mecca of the UsA, during the late 50’s. My parents got divorced and my sister and i ended up in Jacksonville, Florida – great city, but not exactly the manufacturing hub of anywhere. throughout most of my education i was bored. i wasn’t challenged but i always made sure i enjoyed everything i did - the social scene, athletics, and for a while academics. when i got into Ap physics and Calculus there seemed to be way too much theory. i worked most of my junior and senior year. Most nights that i worked i got home about 1 am and had to be up at 6:30am for school. My Ap physics teacher (nicknamed Boo Boo) told me one day that i would be academically ‘ineligible’ for Friday’s soccer match, as i had scored a wonderful “50” on my test. (needless to say i worked that week before). now he had my attention! i would not/could not let my soccer teammates down. i asked my teacher when our next test was and he said “thursday”. “what would i have to make on the test to be eligible and would you grade it that after-

noon to see if i could play?” he said, in fact, yes, he would grade it and that i would have to make a 95 in order to play. i replied with: “ok then, it’s a deal.” Boo Boo was stunned at my confidence and matter of fact statement - “You really think you can do that?” “i know i can. it’s all about priorities. i will have to take some shifts off at work, but i wiLL get the grade.” At Friday’s game i started at center forward - disaster averted. Boo Boo challenged me. he made it real for me. he was awesome. he cared.

Too Much Theory: Let’s Build Something


fter two years in basic college classes, an engineering focus took me to Uw wisconsin and Marquette University. wisconsin - the state with the highest percentage of manufacturing employment in the country. i should have seen it coming. destiny took me back to the manufacturing triangle of the U.s. (wisconsin- indiana- illinois). Unfortunately, every time i tried to get into industrial engineering, i got pushed over into Mechanical engineering- too much theory for me! By the 70’s my two uncles (ed & John) and my father (Jerry) were well into their manufacturing related businesses. My Uncle, ed, had 20 years under his belt running his subcontract machine shop. My Uncle John had just purchased his own machine shop that he grew into a 750 man machine shop. My father was in his father’s machine tool and rebuilding business for 15 years. A dynasty was in the making. destiny was at work. i started working for my uncle’s machine shop buying material.

By Terry Iverson, President, Iverson & Co. and Founder, ChampionNow.

12 T H E I N N O V A T I O N I N T A K E

over the summers i ran machines making parts. Unfortunately i wasn’t trained and did a terrible job. when my dad called me to consider working as an outside salesman selling machines, i almost said no but i took the job and the rest is history. A love affair with both manufacturing and education had begun. By this time i found my soul mate (Kathy). i worked full-time and went to mechanical engineering school at night. Kathy and i had two wonderful young kids at home. i was sitting in a thermodynamics class and thought – why am i here? i wasn’t being fair to my wife or our two kids. i was having a blast calling on manufacturers all over the state (harley davidson, Mercury Marine, ge Medical just to name a few) and i had more engineering knowledge than required, for what i was doing. i went home and talked to my wife - that night i decided to quit. the years went by and i began to excel at looking at parts in a company’s shop and matching a machine tool for a better process. Maybe more accurate, maybe faster cycle time, maybe both. the mix of working with people every day, seeing different products in different shops, & the challenge of problem solving became the perfect job for me! i never paid attention to the money, as i was having the time of my life. the hours flew by. Being married to an extremely supportive wife who understood (or tolerated) the long hours certainly didn’t hurt! After 5 or so years my dad asked me to move to illinois from wisconsin. Can you say culture shock? we had become accustomed to the friendly conservative nature of wisconsin people. we were moving into a much faster pace that made things a bit more challenging. the customers now became Caterpillar, woodward governor, sauer danfoss and others. trips down to the “orthopedic capital of the world” featured calls with zimmer, Biomet, depuy and others.

When I look back on my journey, never did I think that destiny would lead to the family business & beyond - to something that can CHANGE the manufacturing workforce landscape for generations to come.

A Champion is Born


long the way i became committed to the educational market. i started close relationships with instructors at the technical Colleges. we held seminars and invited industry members to attend. i started forming relationships at technical colleges, university labs, and also high schools. As time went on i was invited to serve on national technical education boards. one in Florida (FL-Ate visitors board) the other (Cte Foundation Board) in washington dC. i thought that there must be a way to give continued Where the legacy began. Edward Iverson, 1920's, working at a machine tool builder. Photo courtesy of Terry Iverson.

Clockwise Above Left: Terry Iverson testifies on Capitol Hill on the difficulties small businesses have with finding a skilled workforce June 2012; The author giving a ChampionNow presentation to high school students on the opportunities in manufacturing; Cross-generational (left to right) – Erik, Jerry and Terry Iverson; A portrait sketch of Edward "The Boss" Iverson, Founder of Iverson & Company. All photos courtesy of Terry Iverson.

back to an industry that had been so good to me and my family. i was 30 years in, and at some point i would retire. why not establish something to change things for the better? everyone (and i do mean everyone) complained about not finding enough skilled workers. what could i do to change that? sitting on a plane to washington dC, the figurative lightning bolt struck! Could i form a slogan that would change the prevailing image of manufacturing as a career? the announcement came on for us to prepare to land and it hit me: Change. Manufacturing. perceptions. i wrote the first letter from each word on a napkin: C – M – p. Change it how…hmm….C- h- M- p, then the lightning struck again CHAMPION: Change How Advanced Manufacturing’s Perceived In Our Nation. A positive message and image for a manufacturing career path that is desperately needed. somewhere along the line our country moved away from manufacturing and towards a “service-oriented” economy. Manufacturing made our country great & we need to get back to that. now at 54 years of age i am the norm - the AVerAge for my industry. where are the young men and women to take over for us when we retire? Unfortunately they are not there. why can’t we emulate europe? there, manufacturing careers are honored, revered and sought after. Maybe ChAMpion can hint at that! My path was more directed by destiny and bloodline, than a decided education, early choice, or a passion. too many young people do not even know there are hundreds of thousands of skilled job openings in manufacturing companies all over the U.s. the per-


ception of these jobs and the manufacturing community needs to change. the time to do something is now. After my revelation on the airplane, i started an organization called Championnow! and i believe this is the message for the country to bring back skilled manufacturing workers. this past June my local congressman asked me to speak to the small Business committee of the house of representatives to tell the story of Championnow! and the difficulty small businesses have with the manufacturing workforce. if i have my way, the general public would know and see this message in every possible venue from UsA today, the wall street Journal, the new York times, people Magazine, to sports illustrated and more. Billboards. tV commercials. we need to get the word out! when i look back on my journey, never did i think that destiny would lead me to the family business & beyond - to something that can ChAnge the manufacturing workforce landscape for generations to come. And all without a college pedigree. i am proud of what my family has accomplished and hope to leave something behind for the benefit millions. Let’s ALL be Champions…now! n Terry Iverson is a third generation President & CEO of Iverson & Company, an 82 year-old CNC machine tool distributorship located in Des Plaines, IL. Terry started in the industry in 1980. Terry has nationally served on the CTE Foundation Board in Washington DC & presently sits on the National Visiting Committee for FL-ATE, Golden Corridor Group in Chicago, and also the TMA Educational Foundation.

Open Opportunities For Your Adult Learners

For more information on our adult education and workforce development products and services, please call 800.225.5425. Š Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Changing the Game: Closing the Data Gap Will Help Narrow the Skills Gap Mary Wright, Program Director, Jobs for the Future

he sKiLLs gAp in the U.s. workforce is by now well documented and the consequences well known. Millions of Americans need jobs, yet employers are striking out when it comes to finding qualified candidates for the millions of positions available. As the world series plays, it turns out that we have much to learn from the business of baseball. the early efforts of employers, higher education institutions, and workforce development organizations to solve the skills crisis by joining forces are encouraging. But something important has been missing from most discussions: data. Anyone who has seen the movie Moneyball or read the best-selling book will im-



mediately catch the baseball connection. we need to be more like Billy Beane, the manager who brought his low-budget oakland A’s to the playoffs against the wealthiest teams in the league by focusing relentlessly on the most meaningful data about prospective recruits. Billy Beane changed the game by making strategic use of key data others ignored, such as the number of times a player actually got on base, as opposed to more popular metrics like home runs. workforce development teams, of employers, community colleges, and jobseekers, should do the same – focus intensively on key data about the labor market to build their futures.

the timing could not be better. innovations in collecting and analyzing “real-time” labor market information are expanding at a remarkable rate. For the first time, artificial intelligence software can aggregate millions of pieces of data from online help-wanted advertising, tracking employer demand for staff sorted by occupation, industry, and location, as well as certification requirements, wages, and other pertinent information. new technology makes it possible to draw data from a much larger, and more current, pool than ever before. Combined with traditional labor market information (as provided by the U.s. Bureau of Labor statistics and others), this data can be used to change

POLIC Y the training and recruitment game. new approaches are especially important for filling the middle-skilled jobs that are essential to fast-growing sectors of our economy, such as health care, information technology, high-tech manufacturing, utility work, and the trades. Finding qualified candidates in these areas has been a major problem for American employers. the positions require at least some postsecondary education, such as a certificate or an Associate’s degree specific to the particular skill or occupation. Because of changes in technology, these jobs are changing rapidly, making it difficult for both jobseekers and educational institutions to keep up with employer specifications. real-time labor market data can help identify these new trends in job content and skill demands. Armed with this knowledge, employers can form strong partnerships with community colleges, where most middle-skill job training occurs, to make sound, strategic, data-driven decisions about how to train an effective local workforce. datafocused partnerships that have started to develop are taking the guesswork out of identifying new program offerings and are already yielding useful results. Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit that aims to ensure low-income individuals gain the skills needed to succeed in our economy, created Credentials that work to help community colleges, employers, states, and regions use real-time labor market data to substantially increase the number of successful jobseekers. our data analyses provide a framework for helping redesign curricula and create new programs of study that align with the skills local employers are

seeking. with ongoing access to up-to-date information, colleges can revise credential offerings as often as necessary to meet the evolving needs of the local economy.

These services can: l Help local employers confirm labor market opportunities, advise on curricula design, and assist in program development. l Help community colleges review curricula, align programs, and develop new career pathways leading to in-demand jobs.

learn how to answer a phone professionally and handle complaints, in addition to wiring a building or installing solar panels. when all of the players in workforce development collaborate – and use realtime labor market data to make wise investments in education and training that match regional economic needs – we’ll be significantly more successful at forming the champion teams of our dreams. n

l Identify the skills students will need – and the education and training pathways they can take – to enter and advance in family-supporting careers.

real-time data also can help gauge demand for general professional skills, sometimes called “soft skills,” that many training programs don’t cover. For example, employers often bemoan the dearth of communication and organizational abilities among job candidates. real-time job postings can capture to what extent an aggregated group of employers is searching for workers with these competencies. this level of detail is immensely useful for community colleges. A “green jobs” training program at Laguardia Community College in new York City is a prime example of how colleges can put this data to work. the program prepares workers for careers in green construction, building maintenance, and sustainable landscaping, among other areas. Using real-time labor market data, staff discovered that better communication and customer service skills were in high demand, so they incorporated instruction in these areas into the curriculum. now participants

Ms. Wright has more than 20 years of experience in municipal finance, government affairs, and workforce development. Before joining JFF, she served as director at The Conference Board in New York City. During her tenure at TCB, she also served on the boards of three Boston-area nonprofits that support educational opportunities for underrepresented youth, housing options for low-income families, and the arts. Ms. Wright has an MBA in public/nonprofit management from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in urban affairs from Connecticut College.




Engaging Business to Solve the Talent Challenge Kevin Stotts, President, Talent 2025 to be considered competitive candidates, job seekers must have some type of postsecondary credential ranging from a certificate to an advanced degree. Employers as Catalysts for Systemic Change in response to these challenges, business leaders across west Michigan came together in 2009 to form tALent 2025, a Ceo-led effort to transform the region’s talent development, attraction, and retention efforts. tALent 2025’s vision for the region is to be a top-20 region and achieve two goals by 2025: increase the number of adults with a post-secondary credential from 54% to 64% and catalyze an integrated talent system that is responsive to the needs of employers. Every Region Faces a Talent Challenge ALent hAs BeCoMe the primary driver for regional economic prosperity. According to the Lumina Foundation, by 2025 a globally competitive workforce will require at least 60% of its employees to have a post-secondary credential – a technical certificate, a twoyear associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or more. those communities that meet this goal will reap a talent dividend. every percentage increase in educational attainment results in a $763 increase in per capita income. Comprised of 13 counties with a population of over 1.6 million people, west



Michigan has its own set of challenges to meet this goal. student performance falls dramatically between the third and sixth grade and does not recover. too many students are leaving high school without being college-ready. west Michigan trails its peer regions in the percentage of adults over 25 with a post-secondary degree. the approaching retirement of the baby boomers will create a demand for talent that will outpace the supply of skilled workers. At the same time, the level of education and training required for employment by west Michigan’s employers in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, life sciences, and it has increased. in order

Kevin Stotts.

tALent 2025 is fundamentally different than other efforts across the country. it is a process, not a program. tALent 2025’s efforts are propelled by 73 Ceos who represent over 115,000 employees or 12% of private sector employment in the region. in the spirit of servant leadership, these Ceos convene leaders in each segment of the talent system to understand the challenges and encourage cooperation across the region in order to achieve a shared vision for a globally competitive workforce. this shifts the thinking from “they need to fix the schools and workforce system” to “we are working together to improve the talent system.” in this role, tALent 2025’s Ceos act as neutral conveners and accountability partners to illuminate performance gaps, evaluate solutions, and advocate for leading practices to improve the talent system. tALent 2025’s working groups now include early Childhood development, K-12 education, College and Career readiness, post-secondary education, workforce development, employer talent strategies, talent Attraction and retention, and entrepreneurship. Early Success


Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation seek to close the manufacturing skills gap by investing in STEM, supporting workforce development workforce programs, and aligning programs, resources for job seekers in resources mor more where e than 24 countries wher e Alcoa operates.

Advancing each generation.

so far, tALent 2025’s approach has yielded extremely positive early returns. there is a shared vision for the region. progress is being reported annually. working groups are tackling the challenges within each sector. public policy is being changed to address gaps and remove barriers. employers are doing their part by adopting leading practices such as internship programs to attract talent, changing recruitment practices to attract veterans, and using the national Career readiness Certificate/workKeys® to measure the quality of candidates. As west Michigan looks at the leading practices of other communities, we hope the lessons we have learned can be used by others to enhance their efforts and ensure that the United states develops the best talent. n

The ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™—the nation’s most widely used work skills credential—has helped more than 2 million individuals verify the quality of their work-related skills to employers and can help inform skills-based hiring decisions. To learn more about ACT’s integrated assessment solutions that measure college and career readiness and provide the most advanced measures of workplace skills, visit us at

Kevin Stotts is President of TALENT 2025, a West Michigan non-profit organization that seeks to boost educational attainment across the region. Previously, Kevin was the Vice President for Community Programs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce where he directed the Center for Community Leadership (CCL) and Hello West Michigan. Kevin is originally from the Detroit area and earned his bachelor's degree from James Madison College at Michigan State University. 20764


HIGH STAKES: A New Model for Youth Employment Emerges from Las Vegas By Kacy Qua, Founder, Qualifyor

Tony Hsieh and CEO Kacy Qua fielding a question from one the the Qualifyors. All photos courtesy of Qualifyor.

Rather than trying to compete head-on with places like San Francisco and New York City we thought Vegas had a bigger opportunity to be at the forefront of the national shift away from 4 year degrees as the only viable option for talent development


First Met tonY hsieh at the downtown Cocktail room, a darkly lit bar in downtown Las Vegas (dtLV) that i would later find out was ground zero for the downtown project (dtp). As the head of the X prize education prize design team, i had engaged with some of the world’s brightest thought leaders to examine where the education industry was broken, design multi-million dollar incentive competitions to disrupt the market, and explore what the industry would look like in 10-20 years. tony was considering sponsoring an X prize in community/education,


the space for which i had been tasked with creating prizes. Ultimately, it became clear that an X prize, which is intended to drive radical global technological breakthroughs, may not be not the best tool to accomplish tony’s goal of building the most community-centric city in the world, focused on connectedness, collisions and colearning. i then had to work up the nerve to tell him that. with that slightly awkward discussion out of the way, tony and i began a several month dialogue about how he could use dtp to experiment with some of the more


Left: Qualifyors at the MGM International Resorts Roundtable. Above: Inaugural Qualifyor Class in Downtown Las Vegas.

risky ideas for higher education disruption, with an aim at building a talent ecosystem robust enough to staff the $100M of investments he was putting in to tech companies and small businesses. how could he take the unique circumstances of dtp and test something that probably would never fly in more established cities? rather than trying to compete head-on with places like san Francisco and new York City (that are home to many top tier universities), we thought Vegas had a bigger opportunity to be at the forefront of the national shift away from 4 year degrees as the only viable option for talent development and toward a more cost effective, relevant education system that breaks down the silos between educators, employers, and the communities they serve. Between massive student debt levels and youth under/unemployment, it is clear that college does not automatically lead to jobs. And while there is a lot of talk in the

tech space about “disruption” and online education, i believe disruption goes well beyond putting traditional courses online for free. i think it starts with the fundamental question of why we educate people; what knowledge truly leads to happiness and success in work and life? i wanted to delve deeply into this issue and engage employers in the discussion and solution. with this shared vision, tony backed my for-profit startup, Qualifyor, which offers companies access to a low cost, vetted talent pool to handle short-term projects, with the potential for full-time hiring. high school seniors and college students undergo a competitive admissions process that vets basic hard skills (like graphic design, video production, computer programming, and digital marketing) as well as personal traits like self-motivation and humility. once accepted, Qualifyors receive soft skills training in areas including problem solving, project management, and pro-

fessionalism, and are then eligible to work on projects for companies. the program offers young people a skillset that is beneficial regardless of career path and the opportunity to build a portfolio without the obstacle of “no experience to get a job and no job to get experience.” we successfully completed our pilot program with partners including zappos, MgM resorts international, downtown project small businesses, and Vegas tech Fund backed startups. we now seek to expand nationally by partnering with innovative companies looking for vetted talent for project-based work or hire and with government agencies or non-profits seeking to bridge the gap between education and employment by supporting a new twist on the old vocational school model. n Kacy is an irreverent, aspiring disruptor of antiquated systems. Before founding Qualifyor, she led Education Prize Design for the X PRIZE and worked or consulted for various industry leading companies including Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Cisco Systems, Deloitte Consulting, and Participant Media. She holds a BS from Cornell University and an MBA from UCLA. T H E I N N O VAT I O N I N TA K E


Y. M . I .- Y OUT H M O V E M E N T, I N C .

Restoring Opportunity to our Young Adults + Our Nation By Mark Edwards, Executive Director, Opportunity Nation

Today, your zip code too often determines

When the

your destiny.

American Dream is at risk for some, we all suffer.

Opportunity Leader and Summer Search Alum Chris Hill at the Opportunity Nation Summit. All photos courtesy of Opportunity Nation.

ne oF the Most pressing questions facing our country is how can we maintain our standing as a country of opportunity while ensuring that our young people have the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy? the answer? it will take all of us, regardless of sector or political party, working together, to expand opportunity and jumpstart the American dream. our young people need and deserve better programs and supports to help them embark on meaningful educational and career pathways that lead to good-paying jobs and a rewarding life.



economies have changed. no longer is a high school diploma or a strong work ethic enough to ensure economic success and stability. opportunity nation recognizes that not everyone needs or wants an increasingly expensive four-year college degree. But today’s workforce demands a higher skill level than ever before, and all of our young people need to be prepared for this reality. we believe that every young person needs to earn some form of credential, certification or job-skill training after high school if they are to have a shot at a decent job and a productive life. in 1973, just 28 percent of jobs in the United states required an

Y.M. I.- YO UTH M OV EME NT, I NC. associate’s degree or higher. By 2020, economists predict that fully two-thirds of all jobs in the United states will require at least an associate’s degree. Yet 5.8 million of our young people today are not in school and not working. And millions more lack the skills and credentials they need to secure economic stability and social mobility. the costs of this disconnection are steep, including $93 billion annually in lost revenues and increased social services. the opportunity index, a unique tool which measures 16 indicators of economic, educational and civic health and grades all states and more than 3,000 counties, finds that the number of youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working is one of the most critical factors influencing how much opportunity exists for residents of a community. opportunity nation developed the shared plan: restoring opportunity to Young Adults to prevent the number of disconnected youth from growing and to promote multiple pathways to get young adults back on track. the bipartisan plan reaches out to employers, giving them tools to help connect youth to mentors, internships and jobs. it seeks to improve high school graduation rates, update career and technical education, and strengthen pathways to post-secondary education. it advocates college savings accounts for low-income children as a powerful step to ensuring they get to a post-secondary institution. we believe all young people can succeed if given the chance – and

the necessary resources and supports. economic opportunity and social mobility have long defined America. But today, this ideal is at risk. Low-income children born in a dozen other highly industrialized countries have a better chance of moving up the economic ladder than low-income children in the United states. today, your zip code too often determines your destiny. we know that in a free society, some inequality is unavoidable. people differ in skills and ambition. But inequality without the chance for mobility is economically inefficient and unjust. the circumstances of birth should not condemn anyone to an inescapable fate. when the American dream is at risk for some, we all suffer. recognizing that nonprofits, institutions and community organizations needed a national advocate to push for federal policy changes to elevate and strengthen their local efforts, Mark publicly launched opportunity nation in 2011. the campaign has more than 300 partners across the country. each year, opportunity nation releases the opportunity index, a unique tool that measures a region’s capacity to expand opportunity to its residents across economic, education and community dimensions. n Mark Edwards is the Executive Director of Opportunity Nation, a national, bipartisan campaign of Be The Change, Inc. that is devoted to expanding upward mobility for more Americans, particularly young people.

Below: Opportunity Scholars Marvin Mathew, Melissa Horr and Mawish Raza on Capitol Hill for Opportunity Nation Hill Day in April of this year. Right: Executive Director Mark Edwards at last year's Opportunity Nation Summit.



Innovate+Educate and U.S. News & World Report congratulates the following companies for winning an HIRE Award for their innovations in hiring and talent development.

2013 INAUGURAL WINNERS AmeriHealth Caritas Bank of America Boeing Corporation Gilchrist Construction Southwire

HONORABLE MENTION Big Ass Fans City of Albuquerque

Thank you to our esteemed panel of judges for their expertise and thoughtfulness, there were many strong applications and it was a tough decision

The Innovation Intake November 2013  

National magazine covering critical issues in education and workforce, featuring The Downtown Project and Tony Hsieh in this issue. Contribu...

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