Think for a moment and imagine the Greater Spokane region’s future with a community full of highly educated individuals. It would be a community that would have 60 percent of its adults attaining a post-secondary degree or certificate, rather than today’s percentage of 40 percent. It would be a community with far less crime and social problems while having more people able to contribute more disposable income for spending in the community.
More than imagination, this will become closer to a requirement for our community in order for our economy to be healthy and to compete on a national and global scale to attract businesses to our region, create new jobs, and ensure we have a strong workforce to fill those jobs. But this will take a community that invests in its students, school facilities, faculty, and staff.
I’m still very new to this region — six months new. But I continue to hear from many individuals, community leaders, and business leaders that there is a strong desire to see job creation, economic growth, and business investment across this entire region.
While there are a number of variables and indicators to measure economic success, education is the foundation of a healthy economy. One of the lines of work that GSI is responsible for and does every day is to fill the gaps between the education and business sectors — to ensure that we have a skilled and available workforce in our region to meet the needs of our kids, our businesses, and our future.
There are five school bonds and 13 school levies on February’s ballot. Bonds that are needed for a safe and sound infrastructure and the technology needed to keep our students safe at school. Levies, which represent about 20 percent of our school districts’ annual budget, fund technology, textbooks, materials, and innovative programs like robotics and Lego league. Levies also fund programs to develop the creative mind in art, music, drama, and extracurricular activities such as sports and after-school activities. We can’t afford to have these programs cut.
It’s time to decide whether or not we are going to be a community that raises the bar or a community that gets left behind. Consider this:
*A qualified workforce is one of the top three items companies look for when choosing a location to move or start a business.
*By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require some kind of post-secondary certification or degree.
*Currently, there are 25,000 unfilled jobs in the state of Washington as result of the job skills gap. This will grow to 50,000 by 2017.
Our economy is changing every day and we, as a community, need to challenge ourselves to excel. We are seeing new technology-driven jobs in a number of industries, including health sciences and aerospace, that require a solid foundation and a strong post-secondary education.
Research shows that increased investment in the development of skills and knowledge provide future returns to our economy – both by an increase in earnings, but also significantly reducing social problems in our community.
Schools across our region are using new strategies to help students succeed. Many of these include training programs and rigorous STEM curriculum that use technology paid for by levies.
Education grows economies. Join me in voting “yes” for bonds and levies. Voting “yes” impacts much more than students – it impacts us all and the future of our economy.
Steve Stevens is the president and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated.
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