ConnectOC Blog

Building Our Future OC - Investing in People

Posted by: Lucy Dunn on 4/4/2013

By Lucy Dunn

In 10 years, will OC’s students and workers be able to call Orange County home?

We are seeing troubling signs:  an inadequate supply of affordable housing, aging infrastructure, and an education system in need of transformational change if the next generation is to succeed.

In the 2012 Workforce Indicators Report, the Orange County Business Council identified educational challenges like English language acquisition and fluency, the significant achievement gap within the county’s diverse school districts, and a community college system eager to restructure itself to prepare students while maintaining local control.

Amidst an ever-evolving economy, Orange County’s future educational success is contingent upon the collective and coordinated efforts of business, academia, and the nonprofit sector.

The nonprofit sector’s contributions to education are often overlooked, but are perhaps the most powerful way to address the county’s educational challenges.  Orange County is unique in the sheer quantity and effectiveness of its nonprofit organizations, who work in partnership with business and government to fill the educational gaps resulting from budget cuts, conflicting mandates, and funding uncertainty.

Take a look at the success of one such nonprofit, Vital Link. Partnering with large businesses like The Boeing Company and Kaiser Permanente Orange County, Vital Link provides hands-on, career exploration experiences for high school students, helping them carve out their own unique career path.

Another successful organization is Project Tomorrow. A STEM-focused organization (science, technology, engineering, math), Project Tomorrow prepares high schools students to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders, and engaged citizens.  By supporting STEM education, Project Tomorrow helps students develop the critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity skills needed in Orange County’s 21st century global economy.

The challenges facing our education system are too great to be tackled by educators alone. Workforce development is a community effort, and the community has much at stake in students’ success. By providing students with opportunities for interactive career exploration, Orange County’s nonprofit organizations are preparing students to fill a critical business need and thrive as contributing members of our community.

How Can You Help?

I encourage you to learn more about the needs in Orange County on ConnectOC, and discover where you can lend your support.  Nonprofits are providing exceptional workforce development opportunities; they truly are our boots on the ground.  

_________________________________________________________________________________

Lucy Dunn serves as President and CEO of Orange County Business Council.

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