Last night I attended the Excellence in Education Dinner hosted by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Kentucky Education Council. It was held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and involved almost 1000 individuals representing education, business and government. It was an evening of honoring those individuals in our community that work in and support education.
So often, we all have tunnel vision. Educators think that all of our problems can be solved simply by improving students’ scores. Business professionals think that all of our problems can be solved by getting government out of our businesses and that our education system needs to do a better job. Our legislators, though maybe well-intentioned, think most things can be resolved with a tax hike or tax reduction. None of these groups are totally wrong, but they are only focused on one part of the picture.
What I saw at the Excellence in Education Dinner last evening was a room full of educators, business professionals and legislators – even Governor Beshear was in attendance. It made me realize that our community will only be as successful as each individual group is successful. And, none of us can do it alone. It takes business, education and government to keep Northern Kentucky progressing and prospering.
Everyone needs a quality education – even if it’s just a high school diploma. After that there are many options available to our children. Maybe it’s an apprenticeship program in the plumbing or electrical trade. Maybe it’s a certificate or 2 year degree from Gateway Technical and Community College for graphic design, IT, or cosmetology. Maybe it’s a four year degree from Thomas More College or Northern Kentucky University. However, that high school diploma is the start and we need to make sure that 100% of our Northern Kentucky children are graduating with that high school diploma.
Everyone needs a job and businesses will require that high school diploma, at a minimum. But, many businesses today, particularly in manufacturing, are struggling to find people who are qualified to be hired. Mazak and Gateway Technical and Community College have banded together to develop a program that will allow an entry-level employee to work part-time and go to Gateway part-time, graduating with a skill that Mazak desperately needs – welders! This is a great example of a successful partnership between business and education. The outcome is more jobs for our residents.
Let’s not forget about our legislators. Whether it’s a council member from Covington, the mayor of Newport, our Judge Executives or state/federal representatives, we need their commitment to our region. A commitment to help our educational institutions have the funding and facilities they need to train the workforce our business community needs. The business community needs legislation that promotes business growth (ex. Angel Tax Credit and tax reform), not legislation that adds to the mound of compliance hoops we are already jumping through.
And, as citizens, we need to take the time to understand what the political candidates stand for. And, if they stand for what our region needs, we need to help them get elected. Following that, we need to keep the communication pipeline open so they are kept informed of our successes, hurdles and needs. Only through open dialogue can we form that triangle of business, education and government which will drive our region forward.
Northern Kentucky has a proud history of putting aside our individual city and county loyalties and working together for the good of the entire Northern Kentucky region. We will either succeed together or fail together. Now, more than ever before, it’s time for business, education and our legislators to join forces and focus 100% of our efforts on producing excellent students that our businesses can employ. Together we can build a leading community – Northern Kentucky!