LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Businesses can't grow without a highly skilled workforce, and you can't build that workforce without a robust public education system.
That was the message at the BE Engaged Summit Thursday at the Smith Center for Performing Arts.
Bank of Nevada brought together more than 100 business and education leaders to discuss the important partnerships that can help schools and Nevada's economy grow side-by-side.
"We need to make sure we understand what the community needs are, what are the students' needs and how do we match those together," Bank of Nevada CEO & BE Engaged Summit co-founder John Guedry said.
The summit started four years ago, is aimed at addressing those partnerships with leaders highlighting the ways a lack of a quality education system can hold the economy back.
That attitude is encouraging for the Clark County School District's superintendent, who was taking part in the event for the first time.
"It is just the entire community hungry for leadership and looking at the partnerships we have," superintendent Jesus Jara said.
Jara spent part of his time on stage discussing the importance of funding when it comes to improving CCSD schools but also reinforcing his promise to make his district more efficient with current funding to prove the money isn't being wasted.
The superintendent was also highlighting the need to build partnerships with the community as a whole, something he hopes to do by signing businesses up as school sponsors.
"The goal is to get all my schools adopted whether it is a business partner or an entire school of mentors," Jara said.
Business leaders say they are encouraged by recent changes that have put a renewed emphasis on Career and Technical Education and vocational classes that introduce students to careers.
"Some of the programs that were highlighted today that use STEM curriculum also ties the teaching in the classroom and the hands-on experience the students have in the classroom to actual jobs that exist in the community," Guedry said.
That hands-on experience is going hand in hand with the business partnerships CCSD is pursuing by giving students job shadowing opportunities in those STEM fields.
Increasing employees with skills in those industries seen as a key to attracting larger companies and diversify the economy.
At that same time, business leaders said part of making Nevada more attractive is moving the state up national rankings in education. While that isn't a simple task, presenters highlighted a couple of factors that could make a huge difference.
"If we can get the legislature and the community to understand the importance of funding Pre-K is an immediate shot in the arm, we can go out to other state's and businesses and say come here; we've jumped 10-15 points," Guedry said.
That was one of the factors highlighted in the Data Insight Partners presentation that showed moving Pre-K enrollment to 80 percent would improve a significant ranking from 49th to 29th.
The other involves putting the achievement gap between higher and lower income students in context. This as the number of low-income students in CCSD has virtually doubled over the last two decades.
"Both groups independent of each other are progressing faster than the national average, but when you average them together because you have this larger demographic on the bottom, it is pulling us down. So we have to close the gap," Guedry said.
Guedry hopeful the summit will provide the call to action he intended when developing the first BE Engaged Summit four years ago.
Businesses interested in partnering with CCSD can get more information on the district's website.