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Education, business leaders talk regional collaboration

LEED looks at teamwork between counties
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Educators of all levels and business leaders of all types spoke about helping each other on a regional level at Sierra College on Wednesday.

Linking Education and Economic Development, or LEED, met to find ways educators, administrators and those in the business community can come together to achieve each other's needs. LEED is affiliated with the Sacramento Metro Chamber and attracted representatives from the Placer Office of Education, the Placer Union High School District, Sierra College, the Rocklin Unified School District and a slew of business leaders from throughout the county.

"When local communities look at regional initiatives the region is always asking local communities to participate and help, but the local communities also have to think ‘OK, these regional initiatives are taking place, how can we leverage those to advance our own local objectives?' So it has to go both ways for it to work," said Dave Butler, chief executive officer for LEED.

Butler spoke on aligning education with the economic needs of Placer County and the Sacramento region, which includes El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

He touted the NextEconomy initiative meant to recognize where regions need workers and how school districts and post-secondary education systems can meet those needs.

He identified life and health sciences, information and communications technology, agriculture and food production, advanced manufacturing and clean energy technology as the top five strongest business clusters under the NextEconomy initiative.

"Education is the underlying support for these five sectors, so when we look at education advancing the next economy that's how we want to see it," Butler said.

After Butler introduced LEED and went over NextEconomy, he had educators and business leaders split into groups to discuss regional goals, opportunities to align programs and what LEED's role could be in the community.

Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, superintendent of the Placer County Office of Education, said it's important for educators to hear from businesses because it will help shape the way students are taught at all levels.

"We spent some time over the years looking at some of our courses trying to figure out if they led to an (associates) degree or a four-year degree or a certificate and we found out there are some things we offer that just didn't lead to anything, so we've cut back on those," Garbolino-Mojica said.

Linda Christopher, director of education innovation with LEED, led businesses in a discussion about what they are looking for in potential employees, including character, motivation and willingness to be a team player.

"We want to integrate all of these qualities into coursework, whether it's at the middle school, high school, community college, college level, these attributes should be upheld everywhere," Christopher said.

Sierra College President Willy Duncan spoke with members of his staff and others who work at Sierra and said they would like to "blur the lines of curriculum" so different subjects are applied throughout the school day. He also brought up the idea of community college faculty working with teachers from elementary, middle and high schools.

Duncan also said he saw value in Wednesday's meeting, but heard grumblings of inertia from some members in his group.

"We had an interesting conversation about the fact that some of these efforts have started and stopped many times over the last 20 years, but it points to we're doing this work again, here we are, but what can we do to make whatever we do sustainable; that we do it and it lasts?" Duncan said.

Butler said the statements he gathered from educators and business owners would be combined with others from around the Sacramento region to better understand the importance of relationships between the two groups.

"Regions are the units of economic competition, not cities, not counties, not states and it's really not the school districts. It's regions," Butler said.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.