Louisville Targets Workforce Readiness From ‘Cradle to Career’

By Greg Fischer

Mayor of Louisville, Ky.


When I took the oath of office as mayor in 2011, I said one of my primary goals was to help my hometown become a city of lifelong learning.

That’s critical for any city — and any citizen — with the ambition to thrive in the 21st century. In a world of constant change, it’s the lifelong learners who are best equipped to adapt and prosper.

Promoting lifelong learning is critical for economic development, because perpetual changes in technology mean that today’s companies place a higher premium on employees with specific skills and training, as well as the ability to learn new technologies and approaches.

Cradle to Career

In Louisville it became clear to us that the path to successful careers starts long before 20-somethings have their first job interviews. In fact, we’re already taking the first steps toward our future careers around the same time we learn to walk.

That’s why we created Cradle to Career in 2014. It’s a partnership between public and private entities that each have a stake in the educational development of our citizens. Cradle to Career works through four major pillars:

  • Early Care & Education/Kindergarten Readiness.
  • K-12 Success.
  • High School to Postsecondary Transition & Completion.
  • 21st Century Workforce & Talent.

Each pillar has strategies to increase student achievement and lifelong learning opportunities, including community-level goals for 2020. Among Cradle to Career’s achievements: In 2011, we were even with the national average in terms of the percentage of Louisvillians with a postsecondary degree. Today, we’re 4 points ahead, and more Louisvillians have a degree than at any time in our history.

Partnerships for student success

Cradle to Career is just one example of partnerships we’ve formed to cultivate lifelong learning. In 2016 Louisville was invited to participate in the Harvard By All Means initiative, which provides technical assistance to:

  • Customize education to the needs of each child.
  • Provide access to out-of-school-time programs.
  • Address students’ social and emotional needs.

Louisville is also entering a partnership with the Weiss Institute — a technical assistance opportunity through the Say Yes to Education Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance that brings organizations together to close gaps in services and support.

Improving and coordinating wraparound services is critical because we recognize that if a child’s basic needs (food, shelter and safety) aren’t being met, we can’t expect that child to be successful in school.

Career Calculator

As a part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors/USA Funds® 2016 Pathways With a Purpose Award, Louisville received funding to support Cradle to Career, as well as the Career Calculator, launched by our partners at KentuckianaWorks. The Career Calculator is an online tool that allows people to find labor market data by occupation, college major and income, and helps them make informed decisions about their college and career focus.

Fischer accepts Louisville’s Pathways With a Purpose Award in 2016.

Since its launch in September 2016, 14,439 people have used the Career Calculator, for a total of 21,047 sessions — some people have used it multiple times — and 25,643 page views.

With the support of the USA Funds, now known as Strada Education NetworkSM, we will continue to enhance the calculator to further help young people and their families weigh options for post-high school education and employment.

We’re grateful and gratified by the Strada Education award, which signals that our city is on the right track as we work to promote our core value of lifelong learning and put our citizens and our city on a path to prosperity.