GradForce KC guides postsecondary attainment initiatives in the Kansas City region. GradForce KC was formed in 2014 when Lumina Foundation invited Kansas City to join its Community Partnership for Attainment. Lumina’s Goal 2025 aims to have 60 percent of the U.S. population hold an associate degree or higher by the year 2025.
GradForce KC focuses on helping two primary populations — first-generation college students and adults who are returning to college. Postsecondary degrees can help these individuals find career pathways and quality jobs, and a more educated workforce helps attract and retain businesses that strengthen our regional economy. Currently, about 34 percent of adults over age 25 in the region have at least a bachelor’s degree, but the demand for educated workers in the region exceeds supply. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of new jobs created require a bachelor’s degree.
GradForce KC’s work is guided by a steering committee that includes secondary and postsecondary leaders, as well as representatives from regional nonprofit and philanthropic organizations that include postsecondary attainment in their missions. GradForce KC works closely with other regional initiatives such as KC Rising
and KC Scholars
In 2016, GradForce KC launched three distinct initiatives designed to improve postsecondary attainment and develop a talented workforce:
- KC Degrees supports adults to return and finish college. In Kansas City, approximately 300,000 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have started but not yet finished a postsecondary degree. Launched in September 2016, KC Degrees provides in-person, phone and online advisement to adults to help them navigate the process to return to college and offers continuing support as they work toward degree completion.
- Talent-to-Industry Exchanges (TIEs) provide a comprehensive regional approach to talent development. This business-led, sector-based system is designed to improve the labor supply in key industry sectors, growing the human capital necessary to attract and retain companies in the Kansas City region.
- Gateways KC aims to create a broad and shared understanding of the economic value of immigrants to our region, and ensure businesses and organizations are culturally competent in welcoming immigrants as part of their workforce. Initially, Gateways KC will work with colleges and universities to help retain college graduates and consider community partnerships to expand immigrant entrepreneurship.
MARC has also undertaken some important short-term projects and produced products to advance GradForce KC’s goals for postsecondary attainment:
- The FAFSA Challenge was started through a grant from Kreskge Foundation to the National College Access Network in response to significant changes in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) submission process. Kansas City was one of 22 cities to receive a 2016-2017 FAFSA challenge grant. The goal is to increase FAFSA completion by 10 percent in 2017 and by 20 percent over a 5-year period. GradForce KC is partnering directly with the Kansas City Public School District in Kansas City, Missouri, for this project.
- The Education Asset Inventory is a tool designed to help identify gaps in postsecondary course offerings across the region. The analysis is structured around growth industries in Kansas City. The report is updated annually.
- The Common Sector Competencies report is designed to clarify the skills that are valued by employers and help teachers, schools, and school districts align teaching and learning to the demands of the workplace. The intent is to create a common framework and language to advance application of the common sector competencies concept.