This summer, we’ve embarked on a road trip to find out how six cities are building equitable pathways to postsecondary and workforce success. On our third stop, we discover how Jacksonville, Florida is building talent pipelines and sustainable pathways to prosperity.
This post was co-authored by Dana D’Orazio and Audrey M.Hutchinson. This is the fourth post in a series on the NLC Summer Road Trip in partnership with LinkedIn, an initiative made possible with generous funding from The Kresge Foundation.
Welcome to Jacksonville, Florida! With the distinction of being the largest city in square miles in the continental U.S. and more than 850,000 residents, Jacksonville is replete with hidden gardens by the water; unassuming streets waiting to be discovered with local shops, seafood and lots of friendly Floridians. The attitude matches the weather, warm and welcoming.
What sets Jacksonville apart is the sense of shared responsibility to make achieving prosperity a reality for all the city’s residents. The passion and dedication was clear in the more than 80 stakeholders that gathered to find out how they could connect and contribute to the city’s Building Equitable Pathways to Postsecondary and Workforce Success initiatives and to learn more about the economic data LinkedIn brought to the table.
“Over 850,000 individuals go to sleep here in Jacksonville every night and call this city home; we are responsible for ensuring they have opportunities to thrive and to be part of a vibrant, healthy community,” said Dr. Charles Moreland, director of community affairs, City of Jacksonville. This sense of responsibility comes directly from Mayor Lenny Curry and his leadership team and has been a center point to the Mayor working alongside the 19 council members to make prosperity a reality for the citizens of Jacksonville.
“Here in Jacksonville, we value partnerships and collaborations that contribute to the success of our youth,” Mayor Curry said. “This work is helping us build pathways and talent pipelines that I hope can be a model for other cities to follow.”
The Jacksonville team – the City of Jacksonville; JAX Chamber and Florida State College at Jacksonville – are applying a laser-like focus on the road map to connect and align the myriad of efforts across the city; to create common messaging; and to build pathways related to the 17 existing industry tracks at Duval County Schools with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
One of the initial goals was to launch the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program in a way that aligned it with other initiatives and included coordinated cross-sector support. These efforts proved extremely successful. In six months, 350 youth working with 48 local employers completed the program and built tangible connections to career pathways.
A unique element that led to the success of this program was a pre- and post-evaluation of STEAM skills each participant was required to complete.
“Through the local work we are changing the way we fund moving from focusing on areas of interest to supporting pathways to prosperity,” said Jason Roth, director of Public Policy at the United Way of North East Florida. Roth and his team are working with the city team to connect the Building Equitable Pathways work to the Network for Southern Economic Mobility initiative. This is just one of the many examples of Jacksonville’s intentional interweaving of local efforts and resources.
“This work is not linear we are finding we are having to go with the flow and let things evolve and organically come about,” said John Wall, Provost at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is looking to begin building unified messaging and develop an effective community engagement strategy. The Jacksonville team, working alongside community partners has also set audacious goals for the coming years to continue to scale the Summer Jobs program as well as build out key mentoring and support services to further assist youth in their education and career pathways.
While in Jacksonville we also saw the power of leveraging the vast network of local and national partnerships in joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta at their Jacksonville Branch for a special conversation around the economy and workforce trends.
We enjoyed our visit to this sunny city and strongly recommend a detour to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens – where you will feel like you are in another breathtakingly beautiful land. Also be sure to catch a bite at Hawkers where we recommend the Malaysian flat bread – but be sure to stir your peanut sauce because the straight chili oil on the top might be a shock to your system.
Texas, here we come! First stop: Houston!**
**Please note that due to the natural disaster that devastated two of our cities—Houston and Corpus Christi – we will be postponing our next two blogs detailing our visits to each of these cities. Austin will be our next blog. Stay tuned for more!
About the authors:
Dana D’Orazio is the Program Manager for Postsecondary Education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Audrey M. Hutchinson is the Director of Education and Expanded Learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.