Where Talent Thrives
By Steve Higgins
The Hartford Region welcomes companies from around the globe to experience a genuine competitive advantage: the most productive labor force in the world.
“Education is where it all begins in the Hartford Region. More than 40 institutions of higher learning provide the world-class training and education that enable companies here to excel.
The area also boasts the highest level of spending on corporate research and development in the world and the highest gross domestic product per capita in the U.S., according to the World Knowledge Competitiveness Index 2008, which studied 145 major metropolitan areas. And this atmosphere of excellence begins early: The Hartford Region ranks sixth worldwide in expenditures on primary and secondary education, according to the Index.
“The Hartford Region’s business and educational communities are working together with an intense focus on attracting and retaining young talent,” says Oz Griebel, president and chief executive officer of the MetroHartford Alliance, the Hartford Region’s economic development leader. “We are competing aggressively and successfully for jobs, capital and talent, especially the young talent needed to sustain a robust economy.”
From Yale University in New Haven to the University of Connecticut in Storrs to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Smith College, dozens of colleges and universities turn out more than 25,000 well-trained and highly motivated graduates every year. That local talent pool is augmented by easy access to young achievers in nearby Boston and New York City.
“The workforce here is among the most highly educated and most highly productive in the world, particularly in industries such as aerospace and precision manufacturing, health care, insurance and financial services,” says Griebel.
The wealth of educational opportunities in the Hartford Region provides graduates and working adults with the skills they need to help employers of all sizes outperform the competition.
The MetroHartford Alliance also is working on ways to encourage young people to settle and put down roots in Hartford. Its key program with that aim is the Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs, or HYPE, a networking and professional development group for young employees and entrepreneurs that has attracted 1,900 members in just two years.
“They are well connected and understand the importance of good relationships,” says Julie Daly, program manager for HYPE. “Our members not only have extensive resumes and experience, they get involved in HYPE to strengthen our region as a whole.”
Early Training and Preparation
“The Hartford Region offers an unparalleled educational experience from first grade through graduate school,” says John Shemo, vice president and director of economic development for the MetroHartford Alliance. Shemo points out the stellar reputation of the Hartford Region’s public and private schools, as well as the presence of the Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy, one of more than 2,600 International Baccalaureate schools in 135 countries with an international curriculum.
The Hartford Region’s commitment to excellence in education begins well before students reach college age. The Hartford School System, for instance, is restructuring its high schools into innovative, career-oriented “academies.”
The first 11 academies under the city’s new all-district Choice Program opened last fall, and three more are set to open this fall. Area students are choosing schools based on the career they are interested in rather than on location. Among those opening this fall, High School Inc. will tailor its elective courses toward the region’s vital insurance and financial services (IFS) industries.
“We took all the lessons that we learned about designing new schools with the magnet schools along with research-based national models and asked, ‘How do we use that to scale up and create an all-choice system?’” explains Dr. Christina Kishimoto, assistant superintendent of school design for Hartford Public Schools. “It’s not business as usual. We wanted to take a very innovative approach.”
“We have traditionally had a very well-educated workforce in the Hartford Region, and there is
a tremendous collaborative spirit among the business community to make sure that continues.”
Marlene Ibsen, Vice President of Community Relations, Travelers
Area corporations have agreed to sponsor the academies, providing funds and helping set the curriculum. Offering electives based on career themes makes each school more focused and will produce graduates who are better prepared for college and the workplace, Kishimoto says. Themes include engineering, nursing, Latino studies, teaching, culinary arts, law and government, among others.
The partners for High School Inc. include the IFS Cluster of the MetroHartford Alliance and The Travelers Companies Inc. The IFS Cluster is a group of more than 25 banks, brokerages and insurance companies working together to foster growth in the region.
“We have traditionally had a very well-educated workforce in the Hartford Region, and there is a tremendous collaborative spirit among the business community to make sure that continues,” says Marlene Ibsen, vice president of community relations for Travelers. “We’re working to broaden the pool by focusing on urban school reform.”
Travelers provided funding for High School Inc., and will ask employees to work with students both at the school and at Travelers’ offices. As co-chair of High School Inc.’s design team, Ibsen oversaw hiring and curriculum development.
Another example of business engagement in public education can be found with Prudential Financial, Inc. Michelle Morey, vice president of marketing communications at Prudential, serves on the board of directors of Achieve Hartford!, a local education fund that drives strategic reform in the city’s schools.
“For long-term sustainability, the reform strategy needs to be owned by the community — and local businesses are active partners,” Morey says. “We are working to ensure that an appropriate reform strategy is in place, and we will measure its achievement.”
Hartford-based Prudential Retirement is a business unit of Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader focused on helping individuals and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth.
Prudential recognizes the importance of investing in the communities where we live and work. In 2008, many nonprofit and civic institutions in Hartford faced funding cuts. To help, Prudential Retirement and The Prudential Foundation increased its grants, awarding $800,000+ to area education, job creation and arts programs. Prudential also adjusted funding priorities to ensure that our financial assistance and employee volunteerism directly supported student scholastic achievement and small businesses.
Prudential focuses on initiatives that provide long-term community benefits. Last year, we awarded $150,000 to the Hartford Education Foundation to support education reform and $75,000 to The South Arsenal Neighborhood Development Corporation for affordable housing and job training. Prudential also sponsors Hartford’s Monday Night Jazz Series, providing free performances for the community.
And we are most proud of the fact that Prudential’s employees make a difference every day through a wide range of volunteering efforts right here, in Hartford, our home.
The Hartford Region also has created a continuum of education that includes public and private community colleges that directly serve the needs of industry. “Our public and private two-year colleges are well positioned to offer services and training for businesses,” says Shemo.
At the private Goodwin College, for example, President Mark Scheinberg believes it is critical to work closely with business leaders. Each of the school’s degree programs, from business administration to paramedics, has an advisory board of corporate leaders. “We regularly tailor our programs around the needs of employers and their employees,” he notes.
Goodwin, which offers two-year degrees and some four-year degrees, serves the business community in more specific ways as well. The school offers classes based on the specific needs of corporations, either at the business’s site, on campus or online. Employees of Connecticut Light & Power Co. (CL&P), for instance, may enroll in a customer service program with classes conducted at their work sites that are tailored specifically to CL&P’s needs.
“For long-term sustainability, the reform strategy needs to be owned by the community —
and local businesses are active partners. We are working to ensure that an appropriate
reform strategy is in place, and we will measure its achievement.”
Michelle Morey, Vice President of Marketing Communications, Prudential
Goodwin also has teamed up with the MetroHartford Alliance and other area schools to create a “college completion campaign” designed for the thousands of adults in the Hartford Region who attended some college classes but did not earn a degree. The goal is to help people finish their degree work and make it easier for them to transfer old credits.
The IFS Cluster additionally has responded to local business needs by creating the IFS Center of Educational Excellence, which provides noncredit training and associate degrees to area employees. “It’s been a successful partnership for providing on-demand training for the industry,” says Susan Winkler, executive director of the IFS Cluster.
Area Colleges and Universities
Albertus Magnus College
Quinebaug Valley Community College
American International College
Mount Holyoke College
Among the larger colleges in the Hartford Region are the University of Connecticut (UConn), Saint Joseph College, Trinity College and the University of Hartford — all MetroHartford Alliance board members. As members of the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education, these schools have joined with eight other area institutions to promote innovation in higher education.
“We don’t just keep doing the same things every year,” says Mike Hogan, president of UConn. “We’re always looking at where the state’s economic future will lie and where the demands are, and we are tailoring programs to meet those demands.”
UConn is expanding programs in engineering, education, nursing and health sciences. The school recently bought a 300-acre site to build a new research park with 1.2 million square feet of space near the campus. Hogan says seven out of ten UConn graduates remain in Connecticut for their first job, and 5,000 UConn alumni are currently in executive positions within the state.
The University of Hartford, established in 1957 by business and community leaders as “a private university with a public purpose,” offers its students and the community a wealth of educational and cultural experiences, services and support that includes everything from patented technology to applied research, entrepreneurial consulting, municipal planning and Suzuki music instruction. “We are active in the Hartford community and want to enrich the experience of working and living here,” says University of Hartford President Walter Harrison. “The Hartford area provides a wide array of educational opportunities for our students, which, in return, gives them highly marketable expertise.”
Harrison says 30% of the University’s undergraduates come from Connecticut and 56% remain in the state after graduation. “They are a valuable resource — young, energetic, intellectually engaged thinkers and workers who already know and love the Hartford area and are eager to stay here.”
Travelers Invests in Education Access
Travelers believes a quality education can break down barriers and build limitless long-term opportunity. Travelers EDGE (Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment) is the company’s education access initiative to help build a pipeline to college by supporting community- and school-based efforts to help students progress from middle school to a rigorous high school curriculum. This will enable students to enter college ready to compete on an equal level with their peers. Once students are enrolled in college, the program provides scholarship support and a combination of professional development and mentorship opportunities to build an awareness of and to help students access careers in insurance and financial services. Capital Community College and University of Connecticut are two of nine partnerships Travelers has established in Minnesota, Maryland and Connecticut.
A leading provider of property casualty insurance for auto, home and business, Travelers has done business in Connecticut for more than 140 years and has been committed to the community throughout its entire history. For more information on Travelers, its products and its community involvement, visit www.travelers.com.
Pamela Trotman Reid, president of Saint Joseph College, says, “I speak regularly with the corporate world, other educators, nonprofit leaders and small-business owners to discuss how to make our community more appealing for young professionals, and education plays a key role.”
The latest initiative at Saint Joseph College is the creation of a new school of pharmacy. “We know there is a need, and Saint Joseph College has a very strong reputation in the health care arena because of our top programs in nursing and nutrition,” she says. Saint Joseph also has programs in social work, counseling, management, accounting, education and the arts and sciences.
At Trinity College, one of the newest initiatives is the creation of the Center for Urban and Global Studies, which is developing connections among Hartford’s urban organizations and engaging faculty and students with the Hartford community through community learning, internships, volunteering and other activities. The center also is forming new connections overseas with Trinity’s learning centers in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Barcelona and other cities.
“The students here today are going to be citizens of major urban environments, and those are all going to be complex, multifaceted and diverse,” says Trinity President Jimmy Jones. “There may not be any better learning environment for any undergraduate than being at Trinity in a major capital city, because more people now live in urban environments than in nonurban environments.”
Trinity students who major in Hispanic studies, for instance, are required to complete a study project in one of the many Hispanic neighborhoods in Hartford, he says. Students have opportunities to study abroad as well.
The Future Is Bright
According to Griebel, both attracting and retaining talented young people are at the heart of the cooperative spirit among the Hartford Region’s leaders in business and education. “We have an exceptional, productive workforce complemented by a strong pipeline of talent in our educational system, and we invite companies from around the world to base their expansion and relocation plans on this extraordinary competitive advantage.”.
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