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The solution is on us: Be Engaged

When it comes to retaining, growing and recruiting businesses, a qualified workforce is every bit as much a factor in our success as good infrastructure or business climate.

The health of the business community depends largely upon capable employees who possess the skills necessary to perform the jobs of both today and tomorrow. This is particularly true in an economy that is rapidly shifting to higher levels of technical expertise, which is why improving student achievement is essential to the future of our local economy.

Put simply, progress in education is progress in economic development.

The business community can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and hope for improvement — we must do what we can to help create it. Successful students are more likely to become successful and talented workers, and we need them in order to better recruit more high-wage companies to the region and meet evolving requirements by employers. At the core of the future success of our students is a strong K-12 foundation.

The education reforms championed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and passed during the 2015 legislature are a significant step forward in improving our schools and elevating student accomplishment. But there must continue to be a sense of urgency in making sure these reforms are implemented and enhanced.

That’s why the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance — with the Asian, Henderson, Latin and Urban chambers — along with our corporate partners — Bank of Nevada, Cox Communication, Toyota Financial and VegasPBS — are bringing businesses together. We believe education and economic development are inextricability linked, and the business community can help expedite the effectiveness of these reforms by supporting programs and nonprofits that are already addressing barriers to success.

The Business + Education (BE) Engaged Conference 2016: Accelerating a New Nevada, on March 7 at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts will bring together Southern Nevada businesses to commit time, talent, and resources to accelerate those education reforms and improve student achievement. The forum will make the case for businesses to get involved, as well as showcase examples of businesses currently committed to supporting students through volunteer and monetary support.

BE Engaged will highlight four areas tied to student success: literacy, poverty, workforce development and human capital. These factors are often barriers to achievement, and we, as business decision-makers, have within our ability to address and remedy them.

After the BE Engaged program, there will be a tradeshow with nonprofits that offer some of the most effective programs addressing those areas of need. You can BE Engaged by partnering your company with one or more of these successful education programs.

For example, one of Gov. Sandoval’s reform programs is Read by (Grade) Three. Data shows if a child is not reading at grade level by fourth grade, when learning to read transitions to reading to learn, the student probably never will catch up. Focusing on reading in those early years is vital. Businesses can help make a difference by volunteering to read with children, donating books or supporting nonprofits that provide before-school breakfasts. At BE Engaged, you will see a host of nonprofits and proven programs that you can support to make a positive impact.

There are thousands of students who need and deserve a brighter future. They need us as leaders to play an active role in creating and building their success. They deserve our focus and attention in order to solve the problems that are within our grasp.

Every business can — and must — do something if we want to prepare our workforce and economy for the challenges of tomorrow. We urge you to be part of BE Engaged on March 7, and find out what the needs are and how your business can make a difference.

You can find more information and purchase your tickets at www.engage.vegas.

— John Guedry is chairman of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. Ray Specht is chairman of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

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