Why does a network matter?
In listening to the ad wars among mobile phone companies, they brag and attack about the comparative reliability and the coverage of their “networks.” The network is an interconnected set of towers that allows for the transmission of data. On their own, each of those data towers wouldn’t be very useful to the person talking or receiving data on their mobile device. But linked together, these towers create a network that provides a more powerful and consistent user experience.
So what is the power of a network in education and training? We know that the individuals in schools, colleges, adult education and workforce service centers are working hard and providing their biggest positive impact possible. But are they getting the broader and deeper impact they could get through a network? Probably not.
As we advance pathways systems, we are asking each of these organizational partners to come together with others in their community to create a network (a pathways partnership). This network creates an alignment of effort, reduces duplication, and provides for smoother transitions for the users the system serves. The network allows the partners to get a better return on investment for their time and resources – it allows the organizations to move the needle by increasing the level of human talent that can be devoted to productive work.
The EcO-Network Story
In Indiana, there is an amazing regional network that is tackling these big issues, working to raise the overall educational attainment of the citizens and also create industry-targeted strategies that fuel the local economic drivers for the region.
It’s called the EcO Network of Southeast Indiana. Recently, I interviewed leaders from the EcO Network and created two webcasts explaining their work.
In part I, Kathy Huffman presents an overview of how the Attainment Network of EcO supports efforts to ‘significantly increase the high school graduation rate, postsecondary attainment rate, and the percentage of adults possessing a high school diploma and ensures alignment of successful students with career opportunities in the key economic industries.’ The EcO Attainment Network was launched through the Lumina Community Partnership for Attainment.
In part II, Stephanie Weber explains how EcO’s Manufacturing Network brings educators, advanced manufacturing leaders, and other community leaders together to create career opportunities and education programs. These efforts are aimed at helping both youth and adult learner be ready to fill well paying occupations.
We also posted a written case study that provides additional detail about how the network was formed, its processes and the scope of its work.
These regional networks are still too few and far between. If you know of an effective regional network building around k-16 and adult workforce programs, please let me know so we can learn from it, document their work, and share with others.
Just send me an email at [email protected]. Thanks!
Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions. (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.