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Strengthening Communities and Economies through Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence

By Marty Alvarado and Joel Vargas

Recent research about regional collaborations in California note their potential for promoting change across a state with a wide array of unique cultures, histories, and economies. Their potential for producing large-scale results is as yet a tantalizing general hypothesis: If educators, employers, and community leaders work together, they will achieve greater results than by working in their usual silos. It is a hypothesis now being tested vigorously in California through multiple publicly and privately supported regional initiatives that are all striving to help students succeed.

Jobs for the Future is excited to be involved in a particularly promising regional strategy that we just helped to launch: the Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence, funded by The James Irvine Foundation. Four California regional collaboratives under this initiative now have the opportunity to dramatically increase the number of high school graduates in their communities who complete high school on time, earn postsecondary credentials, and engage in work that can sustain a family.

The selected regions—East Bay, Tulare-Kings, Long Beach, and San Bernardino—are already home to school districts that have adopted Linked Learning, a strategy for advancing these objectives. It is a proven approach that is transforming education for California students by integrating rigorous academics with career-based learning and real-world workplace experiences.

The expansion of Linked Learning within the Regional Hubs of Excellence has the added potential to contribute to the economic and civic strength of communities throughout the state. These hubs are at the forefront of an effort focused on building sustainable partnerships—across education systems, employers, and community organizations—that share and align resources to increase the number of and demand for Linked Learning graduates and pathways.

In addition to having a strong foundation of Linked Learning, each region demonstrated a commitment by core partners to a shared purpose of expanding the principles of rigorous academics, work- and career-based learning, and student support services within their organizations and throughout the region. The hubs will strengthen leadership, deepen partnerships, and promote systemic change to build local capacity for scaling Linked Learning within and across education, workforce, and community and business organizations.

The Regional Hubs of Excellence have already shown important breakthroughs in forming a shared purpose and trust across stakeholders to define the governance structures, goals, terms of membership, and anchor organizations that will facilitate ongoing collective work. While that work was difficult, the next and bigger challenge is to discern and design high-impact activities to yield sustainable, systemic change—i.e., those activities that promise to yield greater returns from connecting, coordinating, and sharing resources and responsibilities than from working in isolation.

JFF is honored to be working with each of the sites to tackle and learn from the challenges faced and overcome, as well as to continue to share news of the progress from the work of these regions and the successful outcomes we believe they will achieve.