This week features Greater Minds, an initiative of Greater Spokane Incorporated. The program launched just a year ago and is making progress towards its goal to raise the proportion of residents in Spokane County with high-quality degrees or certificates from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025. Read about how the initiative came to be and what to expect from Greater Minds going forward.
What types of impacts have you made since your launch?
Greater Minds launched in January 2017 with the collaboration of 9 partner businesses, 3 higher education institutions, and many community organizations. Since our launch, we have served more than 300 employees of our partner businesses and community. We have also worked to connect local higher education institutions with businesses to develop new and innovative pathways. For example, we’ve assisted Spokane County with the development and launch of a new employee development program and partnered with The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council on an upskill/backfill of a Nursing Certified Assistant and Medical Assistant to Nurse Tech program. Most recently we are working with several school districts to increase the opportunities for para-educators to enroll in degree programs leading to both Bachelors and Masters level teaching credentials. Additionally, as a result of raising $20,000 in foundation support, we have launched two scholarship programs to be awarded to Greater Minds students this winter and spring.
What inspires you to do this work?
As a regional business development organization, Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Greater Minds initiative works to support a portfolio of policy, partnerships, and programs to increase educational attainment in the Spokane region. The area’s economic competitiveness depends on our ability to expand, retain and recruit talent. Local education partners continue to prepare, educate and train qualified workers to take the place of the baby boomers who are exiting the workforce at a rapid pace. We know we must use innovation to engage the current workforce that includes 86,000 working adults, age 25 and older, with some college and no degree. This is the nexus of the Greater Minds Initiative – to catalyze and engage our business community in growing their own. We believe an educated workforce leads to a thriving community.
What is your next goal? How do you plan to tackle it?
The goal of Greater Minds is to increase our partnerships, both with business and higher education. We are actively engaging our current partners to utilize our Greater Minds business toolkit that helps to provide a step-by-step process for our businesses to help their employees return to school. Our toolkit includes surveys for both the business and their employees, a series of workshops that engage the student-centered navigation process and communication materials that keep both businesses and students aware of current attainment offerings. In addition to the promotion of our toolkit, we are working to increase awareness of our initiative and bring more partners and advocates into the fold. By fall 2018, our goal is to enroll more students in postsecondary institutions and increase the number of prospective students. Lastly, we are working to bring more business partners into the mix this year. We are targeting industry groups that have indicated interest in educational attainment and partnering with our higher education institutions to fill their talent needs by utilizing the Network’s Bridging the Talent Gap survey results completed last fall as well as current labor demand statistics.
 2014 U.S. Census Bureau-American Community Survey-Spokane County