By: Mitch Truswell, Special to bizNEVADA
Photo: John Guedry, CEO Bank of Nevada (Tonya Harvey)
For many years in Nevada, the business community and the public education system often operated in their separate and independent worlds. However, both communities would mutually benefit if they understood more about each other and what each is trying to achieve.
That was the idea behind the very first Business + Education (BE) Engaged Conference.
The conference was founded by Bank of Nevada CEO John Guedry and his wife, Debra, a former teacher. Both had the independent experience to see where business and education — if working together — could do so much more to benefit students, educational outcomes, and the state’s workforce.
With help from corporate sponsors including the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA), Henderson Chamber, Latin Chamber, Las Vegas Metro Chamber, Urban Chamber, Women’s Chamber, Boulder City Chamber, the Council for a Better Nevada and many others, BE Engaged moved forward.
During BE Engaged events in 2016 and 2017, business leaders, educators, and nonprofit organizations received a fresh perspective on the challenges and frustrations amongst the public education system, as well as the achievements and alliances that are moving student achievement higher.
Why should the business community care about education?
Without a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of current and future employers, Nevada will have a difficult time convincing new businesses to relocate here.
Although the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), the LVGEA and others around the state are doing excellent work to attract new businesses, without improvements to educational achievement and outcomes and additional workforce training, the state is limited in what it can do.
Significant progress has been made, but there is much more work to be done. If Nevada wants to be considered a top competitor for the relocation and expansion of major headquarters and companies in emerging industries like technology, there should be a call to action for public education and the business community to work together to improve educational outcomes further and to ensure the availability of a qualified workforce.
How (BE) Engaged is helping to improve student achievement
STEM 101 – With encouragement from Bank of Nevada’s John Guedry and other business leaders, STEM 101, the premier provider of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum in the United States, agreed to donate its STEM curriculum to every public middle school in the State of Nevada. The Clark County School District was among the first in the state to make this voluntary curriculum available to its middle school teachers.
Square Panda – Third grade is when most students make the critical transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Students that haven’t learned to read by this time will fall behind in achievement since so much of their education relies on reading. Square Panda helps to build fluent readers. The Public Education Foundation, working with the Clark County School District, has utilized the Square Panda learning device in several schools and has achieved promising results in helping students to learn and improve their reading skills at an early age.
Corporate Connections – This is a program of STEM 101 that helps students experience and understand future job possibilities, while also engaging local businesses to interact with students and potential future employees. The students are tasked with completing real-world projects for corporations and other entities that include: Aristocrat Gaming, Bank of Nevada, Helix Electric, Martin Harris Construction, Nellis Air Force Base and United Health Services. By participating in these projects, students see the strong connection between what they learn in school and how it applies to the workforce. The program also connects students and adult learners to in-demand career pathways.
Among the most crucial aspect of the (BE) Engaged conference is the call to action. Business and community leaders are asked to think about what they can do to help improve the outcome of Nevada’s educational system and to increase the pool of Nevada’s trained workforce. Attendees are encouraged to donate their time, their expertise, or their financial resources to move our public education system — and our economy — forward.
Many attendees have been prompted to work directly with a school; others have assisted nonprofit organizations that provide essential educational or wrap-around services.
It was through this exposure to nonprofits that Bank of Nevada came to learn of Green Our Planet. The nonprofit organization has placed more than 150 gardens on school grounds and provided state-approved STEM learning curriculum so that teachers can incorporate garden activities into classroom learning. Bank of Nevada’s collaboration included hosting a large, student-run farmer’s market at Bank of Nevada’s Sahara office location earlier this year. School-grown produce and other items were sold by representatives of nearly 40 participating schools, raising a combined $9,000 in support of school gardens.
There are many opportunities to become involved. To (BE) Engaged.
The next Business + Education (BE) Engaged Conference is happening in the Spring of 2019 – official date to be announced.
Bank of Nevada is a division of Western Alliance Bank. Member FDIC.