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Preparing Tomorrow's Talent in Birmingham

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) is focused on building a pipeline of students who participate in career themed high school academies and career-tech programs, pursue post-secondary credentials and/or degrees and fill available jobs in the region’s targeted industries.  BBA received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award to build upon this effort. The BBA is working to develop a web presence and marketing campaign for its newly launched Talent Recruitment Project, a program that hosts sector themed events to connect the workforce opportunities of Birmingham’s employers to college students as they near graduation. 

BBA’s VP of Workforce Development, Waymond Jackson, provided an interview to discuss BBA’s talent recruitment and development portfolio, from cradle-to-career. 

Q: What led BBA to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

Jackson:
 The demand from area companies to have a skilled and educated workforce led the BBA and its leaders to focus on education attainment and workforce development. In 2009, the Birmingham Business Alliance was formed through a merger of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and our regional economic development organization, the Metropolitan Development Board. Shortly after the BBA was formed, Market Street Service led the strategic planning process for our organization. Out of that research grew our strategic plan, Blueprint Birmingham. Blueprint was built upon four pillars: economic prosperity, education and workforce development, community and regional stewardship, and public and private leadership. Now, in the fifth year of that plan we are truly seeing the importance of having a sustained focus on preparing students at all levels of the education pipeline to be skilled and ready as they enter college and/or the workforce. 

Q: How do you explain the growth in your education/workforce development pillar?

Jackson: Now more than ever, it is easier for organizations like the BBA to justify our high prioritization of education and workforce development. Current information in Alabama suggests that 50% of our current workforce could retire today.  With such a large percentage of the current workforce at retirement age, it is very important that future workers are prepared to immediately step in and fill those positions or those yet to be created positions. As economic developers and site selectors continue to hear from expanding or relocating companies that access to talent is a critical component of economic development projects, organizations that are involved in the type of work we do will continue to have a role to play in the process; including working with educators at all levels to make sure they are informed of the latest industry trends and required skills of future workers. Overall, we want to make sure that the companies that invest in the BBA and in our region are able to find the high skilled talent they need. 

Q: Tell me about your chamber's comprehensive education/workforce development portfolio.

Jackson: We have active initiatives in four big areas to meet the goals and objectives of Blueprint Birmingham.

Improve Pre-k-12th Grade Education: When creating PreK-12 programs we look at whether students are getting the type of education that will allow them to graduate from high school and be ready to either take a job in our region or enter one of our local colleges. Once they enter college, we look at whether the classes and programs offered support the types of jobs available locally. 

Implementing Innovative Programs in Under-performing Schools: We are helping to establish career academies throughout the Birmingham City School System. Each high school now has a career-themed academy placed within the school into which students can self-select. These academies align with industry jobs growing in the Birmingham region. Academy themes include engineering, construction and architecture, health sciences, culinary arts, finance, and an urban teacher’s academy. We are also implementing a technology academy. All of the academies are aligned with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) which works very closely with Nashville City Schools (a model we looked at when creating the career academies). We provide industry data to Birmingham City Schools which informs them of available jobs in local industries, and the training and/or education needed to move into those jobs.  

Increasing Access to Pre-K: We are advocates for expansion of the state of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K. The state of Alabama has one of the highest ranked Pre-K programs in the country, and we are one of only 5 states to receive a designation from the National Institute for Early Education Research - meeting all 10 of the Institute’s benchmarks for quality. However, as of 2012, only 4% of 4-year olds had access to the program.  Since we began advocating, along with a host of other organizations who are truly leading the charge, access to Pre-K has risen from 4% to 12% statewide and funding from $19.1 million to $38.5 million.  Most of the data and information on Pre-K says that it works; for that reason, expanding access to high quality Pre-K has been a priority of not only our organization, but of our regional and state leaders as well. 

Encourage Two and Four Year Degree Programs that Support Regional Industry Sectors: ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award has allowed us to expand the talent retention and attraction objectives in our Blueprint. This entails working with businesses and local colleges/universities to: 1) understand what gaps companies have in positions that require two or four year degrees, especially for entry level jobs; 2) establish innovative programs that makes college students aware of the type of jobs in the Birmingham region; and 3) provide students with facilitated meetings, interviews and hiring opportunities with hiring managers and recruiters through our Talent Recruitment Project. 

Q: How does your chamber measure success?

Jackson: We benchmark success across several areas of the cradle-to-career spectrum: 

Talent Recruitment: We are starting to look at census data as a way to track talent progress. For example, over the past three years, the Birmingham region has seen a 48% increase in workers between the ages of 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree. This is a measurement we can look at and use to support our ongoing image enhancement efforts that support talent recruitment.  

Talent Retention: We also measure how many people are coming here, what companies they are working for, and if we are retaining them. We have a retention program, OnBoard Birmingham, which targets early-career employees who possess a four-year degree and are working with regional companies in our in-demand industry sectors. The program exposes them to the community, peers in different industries, mentors, service, and leadership opportunities.  As we continue to see a rise in our four-year degree population of 25 – 34 year olds we want to make sure that we are creating an environment that encourages them to grow and stay. 

High School Graduation & Dropout Rates: One of the intended outcomes of the career academies and hands-on innovative learning programs in our secondary schools is to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates. We want students to take a more hands-on approach to learning and create an environment where they actually want to come to school, learn, and know that what they are learning directly applies to the next step of their life – being college and/or career-ready.  

Kindergarten Readiness: Right now the main measurement for Pre-K students is access. We are starting to shift to measuring the percentage of students who have access to Pre-K that are considered “ready” when they enter kindergarten.

Career-Ready: Industry credentialing, work keys assessment, and lower college remediation rates are all things we look at to determine career readiness.  Also, tracking the number of two and four year college graduates with degrees that are applicable to our target industry sectors is very important.  

Q: How are your education/workforce development initiatives funded?

Jackson: We are funded through the investments and dues of our investors. Our workforce programs are included within the overall budget of the organization. We also go after foundation funding–local and national-specifically targeted toward education and workforce outcomes. 

ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award is the first national grant we have received. But these grants are to support very specific programs, not for our organizational capacity. 

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

Jackson: Following best practices is a best practice! Research existing models, and put your own spin on it. Truly, that is one of the things that has helped me be successful. If you look through our Blueprint Birmingham Strategic Plan, it is littered with examples of programs from other areas. Our original version has the career academy model from Nashville and parent university model from Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

As far as lessons learned, remember to be patient and build relationships. Working to change education systems that have been in place for a long time doesn’t happen overnight. I really think school districts sometimes think that the business community’s efforts will be short-lived when it comes to engagement. That is sometimes why you get resistance in changing programs and processes within schools. But being persistent and consistent helps a lot.

In order to get the type of reform that the business community is looking for, you have to play in the arena. You need to be engaged with your local school board. You need to build relationships with your teachers and superintendents and allow them to have input.  But, most importantly, you have to clearly know the needs of industry and be able to communicate that to your education partners and community stakeholders.  

ACCE has embraced Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Working in partnership with Lumina, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division launched a competitive awards program, providing chambers of commerce a $40,000 award to advance defined regional education attainment goals. In 2014, seven chambers of commerce received awards for setting ambitious workforce development agendas and showing momentum in achieving their community-specific goals.

The 2015-16 Lumina Education Attainment Awards application will launch April 27. 

Tags: EAD, economic development, education, goal 2025, higher education, Lumina, postsecondary

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A Map That Was Worth 1,000 Words

Chris Mead on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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Chambers of commerce affect history in strange ways.

Harry Gold watched nervously as FBI agents ransacked his Philadelphia apartment. They had been tipped off by a spy for the Soviets, British citizen Klaus Fuchs, that someone had been a courier between Fuchs and others in an atomic spy ring. Fuchs couldn’t name the person, but the FBI managed to infer from Fuchs and other evidence that the individual might be Gold.

It was May 22, 1950. The Soviets had detonated an atomic bomb nine months earlier, which President Truman had announced to the nation. The resulting hysteria, fanned by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, was gripping the country. The idea that one of the most murderous regimes in history, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, now had a weapon of mass destruction, was too much to bear. Yes, without spies the Soviets sooner or later would have devised their own bomb, but for them to have it years ahead of schedule represented an obvious danger for America and her allies. (Indeed, as some pointed out later in the year, the Soviets’ having the atomic bomb may have been what emboldened Kim Il Sung of North Korea to invade South Korea in June 1950, setting off a war that would cost 35,000 U.S. lives.)

Who had leaked our secrets to Moscow? Harry Gold, an unassuming, pudgy chemist, considered kind and likeable by those who knew him, was not a likely suspect. Moreover, when the federal agents asked him if he had been to the Manhattan Project laboratories in Los Alamos, N. M., he said no, he hadn’t even been west of the Mississippi.

The G-men, Scotty Miller and Richard Brennan, continued their search. Miller reached behind a bookcase and found a brochure. It included a detailed map of Santa Fe, N.M. It was published by the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce.

“I thought you said you’d never been out West,” Miller said to Gold. Taken aback, Gold opened his mouth, sat down and said, “I am the man to whom Fuchs gave the information.”[i]

The evidence against Gold was not conclusive. He might have escaped arrest if he had kept his mouth shut.[ii] But somehow that map, and perhaps his own feelings of guilt or his desire to be helpful, undermined his instinct for self-preservation. He opened up to the agents. Two days later, Fuchs, shown a photo of Gold, confirmed that he was the man Fuchs had worked with. Gold would go on to help the FBI on dozens of investigations, many of which he suggested. The atomic spy ring case was about to be blown wide open.

Gold fingered David Greenglass, a former Army officer assigned to Los Alamos in 1944 and 1945. Greenglass, in turn, implicated his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, and eventually Rosenberg’s wife (and David Greenglass’s sister) Ethel, too. Greenglass had bargained to save his wife from prosecution.[iii]

The results were soon delivered by the courts. Gold received a 30-year sentence and served 14 years of it; Greenglass got a 15-year sentence and served 9 ½ years of it; and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953.

Thus did a simple chamber of commerce map play a role in the greatest spy drama in American history. In events of not only national, but sometimes of world importance, chambers of commerce stubbornly, often in unexpected and even unintended ways, kept at their business. In the atomic age, when communities could be blown off the face of the earth, towns’ and cities’ chambers of commerce still would remain, one way or another, on the map.

 


 

[i] Robert J. Lamphere and Tom Schactman, The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent’s Story (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1995; previous edition, 1986), 151. Lamphere was the agent dealing with Klaus Fuchs in London while his colleagues were handling Gold in Philadelphia.

 

[ii] Gold’s biographer has written that the spy from Philadelphia could have escaped arrest if he had not confessed. See: Allen Hornblum, “Convicted Spy Harry Gold was Philadelphia’s Benedict Arnold,” Web posting on Philly.com, November 3, 2010. Hornblum’s biography was: The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010 ).

 

[iii] Among the many sources describing the spy ring and its unraveling is this version from the FBI: “The Atom Spy Case,” from “Famous Cases and Criminals,” Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/the-atom-spy-case

 

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Helping Health Care Workers Move Up the Career Ladder

Jessie Azrilian on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 
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Chambers Mobilizing Towards a "Big Goal" 

Metro South Chamber of Commerce received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award for leading Careers in Health, a program targeting entry and advanced level healthcare employees who seek career advancement but require higher education, certification or licensure. To help meet the needs of the region’s top industry, the program works in partnership with several healthcare employers and four institutions of higher education, offering courses to more than 205 incumbent healthcare workers pursuing career growth opportunities. 

The Metro South Chamber serves one of Massachusetts’ fastest growing regions, consisting of eighteen communities south of Boston. The 101-year old chamber, located in the city of Brockton, has been a longtime champion of workforce development. As part of the Goal 2025 Blog Series, EAD staff interviewed Metro South's leaders who provided insights into the chamber’s history strengthening the local talent pipeline.

Interview participants: 

  • Christopher Cooney, President & CEO
  • Alison Van Dam, Vice President of Marketing, Communication & Business Development
  • Christine Karavites, Senior Consultant

Awardee Spotlight

Q: What led your chamber to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

Metro South: This is the Metro South Chamber’s 101st anniversary, and it has a long history of engaging in education and workforce development issues. Several community development initiatives originated within the chamber and grew into their own community support entities.  The Brockton Area Multi-Services Agency and Brockton 21st Century Corporation both started as chamber committees, convening stakeholders and developing workforce development strategies.

Q: You were awarded ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment award to support your chamber’s Careers in Health program, which helps incumbent healthcare workers pursue degrees, certificates and licenses. Can you tell me about the program’s origins and the chamber’s specific role in its implementation?

Metro South: Healthcare is the region’s largest industry sector and economic driver. The Chamber had previously seen success with smaller workforce/occupational grants we’d received from state agencies ($15-35k). Two years ago the state announced that business associations were eligible for $250k Workforce Training Fund consortium grants which go to companies training employees in job-related skills through a program designed by the company. Our's was the first chamber in the state to receive this type of grant which enabled us to allocate funds to several businesses within an industry sector for employee-training activities. The healthcare sector was the obvious choice. 

Chamber staff coordinates the entire program, which targets entry and advanced level health care employees who seek career and workplace advancement but require higher education, certification, or licensure. The Chamber contracts with area colleges to develop curriculum and conduct the training. As part of the program, the Chamber's grant funds pay for the cost of employees' tuition and training with a matching contribution from employers to cover employees’ salaries while they receive training. The Chamber reaches out to healthcare employers from area hospitals and nursing homes to garner buy-in and articulate the need and value of the program as far as reducing turnover costs and increasing the supply of skilled workers to meet their industry’s need.

Q: This is just one program in your Chamber’s education/workforce portfolio, and it’s obvious that significant resources were invested - What were the resources, and how do you justify the investment from an organizational standpoint?

Metro South: The state allows the grantee to retain 10% overhead, but that doesn’t begin to cover the significant staff time and funding required to run the program. This program is only a small portion of our education and workforce development portfolio, with everything done through existing staff capacity (six full-time employees and 2 part-time employees).

However, the Chamber views this as a win-win-win.

The Chamber wins from a goal/mission-achievement standpoint. Workforce development, increasing educational levels, and serving the local healthcare industry are part of the Chamber’s economic development strategy to foster job creation and retention.

The colleges and businesses that participate in the program are chamber members. The colleges increase enrollment and receive funds from tuition fees. Employers benefit from more proficient employees and lower turnover rates.

Healthcare employees, the majority of whom are single mothers, receive training and degrees/credentials such as a Bachelors in Science Nursing or a Nursing Assistant Certification (CNA), helping them move up the career ladder and earn higher wages.

Q: Chambers are often challenged to sustain their education/workforce development work. Can you elaborate on how you've maintained and grown the the work started by the workforce training fund grant?

Metro South: Most of the hospitals and training facilities that have partnered with us are eligible to apply for their own state workforce training grants to continue the work. Now that employers have seen the benefits of participating in the program, we plan to expand the initiative by: 1) working with partnering companies to help them apply for their own workforce training funds; and 2) providing group training for healthcare employers on how to engage students in health careers and career ladder opportunities. Other ways we plan to sustain the initiative beyond the current budget include: 1) developing program implementation guides for employers as an alternative to the chamber providing one-on-one training, which can be very expensive; and 2) purchasing software to use in the chamber's business assistance center, which is a resource for employees and employers to use printers, computers, and software free of charge as well as take part in industry-specific training workshops.

Q: How do you measuring/benchmark success?

Metro South: For the Careers in Health Initiative, we collect employee-level data through surveys and ongoing and frequent dialogue with both participants and employers. The data collected tracks movement up the career ladder including wage increases, as well as employer data such as job creation and retention. A large component of the Workforce Training Consortium fund grant was tracking the return on investment for participating businesses.

All of our education/workforce development initiatives are grounded in research conducted with employers and the broader community, and they are the result of a cumulative effort over years of listening to community needs and supporting the regional healthcare industry.

Q: What advice would you give chambers interested in engaging in education attainment/workforce development?

Develop a strategy and test it with educational and employer partners. Then convene relevant stakeholders from education and business to refine the strategy and establish a plan of action.

 ACCE has embraced Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Working in partnership with Lumina, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division launched a competitive awards program, providing chambers of commerce a $40,000 award to advance defined regional education attainment goals. In 2014, seven chambers of commerce received awards for setting ambitious workforce development agendas and showing momentum in achieving their community-specific goals.

The 2015-16 Lumina Education Attainment Awards application will launch April 27. 

 

Tags: Big Goal, EAD, economic development, education, higher education, Lumina, workforce development

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Fiscal Year 2014 Operations Survey Reports and Comparisons Now Available for Immediate Download

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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FY 2014 reports and comparisons are now available!

  • If you participated in the FY 2014 Operations Survey in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking (DCB), thank you, your customized reports are awaiting you. If you didn't participate, you can still do so, and your FREE customized reports will be available as soon as your data is in.

  • The traditional Chamber Operations Survey Report publication (showing 5 year trends by total revenue categories) is available in the ACCE Bookstore ($199 for members or $250 for non-members; Free for Horizon Investors and those with the All ACCEss Pass).

  • The Membership Statistics report (showing 5 year trends by revenue categories) is available for FREE for all ACCE members. It is also available in DCB in the Operations Survey section, under “Reports and Charts”, customized to your chamber!

More on the DCB Survey Platform:
Login to Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking with your ACCE username and password (Don’t know it? Recall it here.) DCB is available 24/7, year round and chambers can participate by entering data in FY’s 2012, 2013, or 2014 and receive FREE comparisons and reports, instantly. Participate in 3 easy steps: Chamber Profile, Operations Survey, Salary Survey (open to CEOs or their delegates). Download the Quick Start Guide (pdf) for step-by-step instructions on using the platform or use the Data Collection Worksheet to help organize your chamber's answers to each of the survey section questions. Visit the Support page inside the platform for more definitions.

Need help?
Learn how to download the FY 2014 reports and comparison in DCB at our Lunch and Learn Webinar on 4/15 (12:30-1 pm Eastern) or attend a future DCB webinar.  For questions or support requests, email HERO@acce.org.

Tags: Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking, Membership Statistics, Operations Survey

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Chambers Mobilizing Towards Goal 2025

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 3:00:00 pm 
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By 2020, the US Economy is predicted to have 55 million available jobs, and 65% of those jobs will require some form of post-secondary education. The fastest growing industries in STEM will require significant levels of education after high school. Evidence from employers surveyed across the country shows an alarming gap between the availability of jobs and workers with the skills to fill them. If current trends continue, these skills gaps are predicted to grow into massive labor shortages.

Big Goal

As the aggregate voice of local business needs, chambers of commerce are partnering with higher education institutions and community stakeholders, in order to equip the future workforce with the skills needed for college and career success. 

Embracing Lumina Foundation's national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with degrees and high-quality credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025, ACCE launched a competitive awards program providing member-chambers a one-time $40,000 award to advance existing post-secondary education initiatives.

While approaches among awardees vary from championing career-themed high schools to launching training programs for healthcare workers, these chambers all demonstrate a history of sustained engagement in moving the needle on regional education outcomes. Through interviews, reports, and peer-to-peer sharing, leadership from the seven winning chambers have provided insights into what it takes to ensure students have the skills needed for success and employers have the talented workforce they demand.

Awardee Interviews

The Goal 2025 blog series will feature one winning chamber each week in order to highlight successes, challenges, and opportunities identified throughout this awards program that can help other chambers build scalable and replicable programs and policies.

Follow the series each week to learn how chamber-led initiatives like Pathways to Prosperity and Talent4Tomorrow are connecting the current and future workforce to high-demand, high-wage skills and careers.

The 2015-16 awards application will launch April 27.

Tags: Big Goal, education, education attainment division, goal 2025, higher education, Lumina, postsecondary, skills gap, workforce development

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Help HERO Help You!

HERO Team / Holly South on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 1:30:00 pm 
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Help. Expertise. Resources. Online

Three minutes of your time is all we need! We’d really love to get our members’ opinions of the HERO services. Please click here to answer four simple questions about HERO, and let us know of anything we could add or improve upon to serve you better. Thank you!

Tags: HERO, Surveys

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Reports and Comparisons for Fiscal Year 2014 available in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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Get your Chamber's Fiscal Year 2014 data in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking and get free instant comparisons and reports for the Operations Survey, Membership Statistics and Salary Survey reports. Participate in 3 easy steps. Read more about access on our Research Overview page.

1. Log in to Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking with your ACCE username and password. Log in anytime you need to - the system is open 24/7, all year round! It is FREE for ACCE members.

2. Complete the Chamber Profile (required) section first. Then complete the Operations Survey and Salary Survey sections. Note: The Salary Survey section is open to CEO's or their delegates. CEOs may email permission for staff access to HERO@acce.org.

3. Once you have completed 50% or more of each survey, use the Compare Chambers tool and the Reports and Charts service, available in each survey section.

In each survey section, Compare Chambers is used to view on-screen comparisons of your chamber's responses and percentile to each survey questions. In addition to on-screen viewing, you can download the individual metrics to PowerPoint slides, PDF files, or use the Save As option to save each individual survey module by PDF or Spreadsheet. Compare Chambers also works with Year-Over-Year comparisons to view your chamber's performance from 2014-2013 or from 2013-2012. You can input your chamber's data for any fiscal year currently available (2012, 2013, 2014).

Reports and Charts, in each survey section, is used to download the full reports and calculations of the Operations Survey, Membership Statistics and Salary Survey reports, including the new CEO Compensation Overview, CEO & HR Statistics, Senior and Mid-Level Staff, Sales Staff, and Support Staff salary reports. Download these reports and view your chamber's percentile compared to the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of participating chambers.

Tips: Use the powerful filters to compare your chamber to a specific subset of chambers, allowing for apples-to-apples comparisons in revenue, membership size, region, population, staff size and more. Create your own Peer Cluster filter and select 5 or more chambers by name to compare your chamber to. All data is represented in aggregate and data remains anonymous. Use Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking comparisons and reports anytime you need them - making it a truly dynamic system. Need to see your retention stats for tomorrow's board meeting? Bingo! Need to see how your Sales Staff compensation levels and commissions compare to chambers in your region? Check. Need to compare your chamber's revenue or expense to others with similar membership sizes? We've got it all in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking.

Support and Questions: Go to Support in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking or visit our Working with DCB page. Download the the Quick Start Guide (pdf) for step-by-step instructions on using the platform or use the Data Collection Worksheet to help organize your chamber's answers to each of the survey section questions. Attend one of our upcoming webinars. Email HERO@acce.org for individual assistance.

Tags: 2014 reports, Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking, Operations Survey, Salary Survey

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Coolest Chamber in the Country?

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 11:45:00 am 
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Without a doubt, my favorite museum in D.C. is the National Portrait Gallery. I love the presidential portraits and the folk art exhibit, and the atrium is awesome when it’s stifling hot or freezing cold outside. But what I love most are the rotating exhibits.

Last year they hosted American Cool, a portrait collection of the 100 Americans who define “cool.” Muhammad Ali? Check. Marlon Brando? Check. Madonna? Elvis? Prince? Check, check, check.

But, surprise of surprises, not one chamber exec! I couldn’t even find a chamber board member. No chamber folks on the Alt-100 list (runners up group) either. How was this oversight possible?

Okay, so maybe chamber execs would be out of place among the top 100 (top 1,000?) coolest Americans of all time. But I know plenty of chambers working hard to shake off the stodgy image and channel their inner cool. The most successful right now could be the IndyChamber. Why?

They have their own house band.

The nine-member R&B ensemble called Chamber Music (clever) features five members of the chamber staff and three chamber staff relatives. Chamber CEO Michael Huber holds it down on keyboards. And Chamber Music is not a one-time, staff party gimmick. This group has gigs! They recently rocked the annual fundraiser for the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute.

Read more about Chamber Music in the IndyStar. I’m just waiting for footage on the IndyChamber’s YouTube Channel.

Should your chamber be in the running for coolest chamber in country? Leave a comment and tell me why.

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Gauging the Skills Gap: Is Your Community Workforce Career-Ready?

HERO Team / Holly South on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 1:15:00 pm 
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Results from the ACCE Education Attainment Division's recent QuickPoll are now available! More than 100 chamber professionals responded to questions about their business community’s perception of candidates, the importance of several core skills, and their chamber’s initiatives. Take a look below, and click here for the complete QuickPoll results.

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that jobs aren’t filled because of a technical skills gap:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Half find that a lack of non-technical skills (e.g., communication skills and teamwork)  is also a huge challenge:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Of the core skills we asked about, critical thinking and problem-solving is the most highly valued by poll participants:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on ACCE's Surveys and Data, including QuickPolls, view our Research Overview page.

Tags: Careers, education, HERO, QuickPoll, skills gap, workforce development

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Making the case: “Don’t support the chamber . . . unless”

Tania Kohut on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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Last month, Mike Elswick, publisher at the Terrell Tribune in Texas, didn’t mince words when he made the case for joining his town’s local chamber . . . or not. His opinion piece, published with the provocative headline, “Don't support your chamber of commerce .... unless,” makes numerous arguments for why businesses in Terrell, Texas, should join their local chamber. His points can be applied to any chamber’s membership recruitment efforts, but the way he presents his case makes this op-ed a must-read.

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