In 2007, while Richard Berry was serving in the New Mexico state legislature, a group of students from Valley High School approached him about a problem. These students were struggling to get what they needed out of their day-to-day education and wanted a way to make their time in school more meaningful, especially those who didn’t see college as the right fit.
Two years later after being elected mayor, Berry followed through on the students’ concerns. In the meantime, business leaders had approached him about the need for a stronger workforce and more skilled applicants.
Enter Running Start for Careers. With Berry at the helm in 2011, he was able to find a gap in city services. He had two halves of a potential solution—a group that wanted to be trained in how to succeed in the workforce, and a group that had the resources and the need to provide career training.
Learn how Running Start for Careers exemplifies an effective public-private partnership and reveals best practices for working with your city officials.
For this collaboration to work, Berry needed more from the businesses than just vocalizing their needs. He needed them to be a part of the solution. In this case, that meant providing the lesson plans and instructors for the students who were going to be learning how to be effective employees for the future.
“We teamed up with the desire of the business community to have a better skilled workforce,” Berry told Quorum. “We told the business community that if you want to do that you need some skin in the game.”
On his end, Berry helped pass legislation that would ease the ability of these businesses to provide their lessons to students by changing the law in New Mexico to allow non-traditional teachers to teach classes in local schools.
Berry and the city government recruited a wider range of industry professionals to provide courses. He then connected the industry professionals with the schools where they would coordinate the lessons. Running Start for Careers courses are offered to all junior and senior high school students in Albuquerque public schools.
The list of courses now provided includes things such as film, financial services, hospitality, construction, electrical work, and nursing.
“Now these kids are connected with industry professionals, they are seeing what it looks like to succeed,” Berry said. “They’re seeing the industry ahead of them, the industry is seeing them, we’re getting fired up and they’re staying in school.
The result? 98 percent of students who go through the Running Start program graduate on time despite some of them attending schools were the graduation rate is closer to 50 percent. 86 percent go on to postsecondary education.
“It’s just a matter of slowing down, trying to use government as a way to simplify things as opposed to make them more complicated,” Berry said. “Ask people what they need and just try to give them that.”
Businesses and government bodies each have strengths and weaknesses that can often offset each other. If your organization wants to help address a problem in a city, find what you can contribute to the solution and reach out to your elected officials for collaboration.