At Greater Spokane Inc. (GSI), we create the place where organizations come together to advocate for the region, drive strategic economic growth, and champion a talented workforce. We strive to do this through strong community partnerships and have heard from many of our business partners that finding and retaining employees continues to be a challenge. As part of our vision to create a thriving economy, GSI has an overall goal of reaching 60% education attainment in Spokane County by 2025. That goal means that 60% of Spokane County residents would hold a quality degree or certificate by 2025, a 20% increase from 2013. We approach this challenge from multiple angles and work alongside community partners to drive toward this goal.
Within our Education & Talent team, our strategic focus areas are to:
— Address childcare access solutions through public and private partnerships.
— Provide support and education for programs and initiatives focused on attracting and retaining talent, upskilling employees, and increasing regional education attainment.
— Reinvigorate efforts around career-connected learning, internships, and training pathways including STEM and the trade industries.
— Activate Education & Talent Alliance task forces focused on Childcare and Early Learning; K-12, Dual Credit, and Career Connected Learning, and Education Attainment and Completion.
In addition, having a thriving economy means working across sectors to provide opportunities and bridge the gap between education and our business community through these programs:
Our Education & Talent Alliance brings together Spokane area leaders spanning early learning, K-12, higher education, and local businesses to strengthen the entire education attainment pipeline by addressing complexities, advocating for initiatives, and prioritizing efforts that build overall regional economic success.
Greater Minds, an initiative of GSI, supports working adults’ return to school to finish or begin their degree or certificate and helps match students with their desired career pathway. In 2020/2021 we helped 95 students evaluate their options to return to school. Since July 2020, the Greater Minds Microgrant has supported 38 students by paying more than $23,000 in debt. In total, the microgrant supported 137 students, paying more than $77,000 in debt.
The Washington Workforce Portal was launched in July 2020, in partnership with the Association of Washington Business Institute. This statewide platform serves to connect college-attending students across Washington with the opportunity to apply for local internships and gain real-world learning experiences with employers. Currently, there are 345 student accounts and 434 organization accounts actively utilizing this tool.
Spokane STEM, a GSI initiative, and serving as NEWESD 101’s Career Connect Washington (CCW) Regional Network, is leading the strategy and development of building a cohesive career-connected learning system for Eastern Washington’s students and young adults. Spokane STEM is one of nine CCW Regional Networks across the state that works in collaboration with education, industry, and community organization leaders to assess talent gaps and create opportunities to ensure all Washingtonians have an equitable chance of reaching economic self-sufficiency. These efforts have helped create more than 20 different Career Exploration, Career Prep/Career Launch opportunities this year in conjunction with various business partners and post-secondary programs for students across Eastern Washington.
Alongside community partners in 2020-2021, Spokane STEM expanded Project ELLO throughout the region to provide parents with strategies for applying research-based techniques for fostering language-rich math conversations in everyday spaces with young children. 1,000 sets of math hELLO conversation cards were distributed to families furthest from opportunity. The resources are available in English, Spanish, Marshallese, and Russian, creating familiarity with math terminology and concepts through conversations with caregivers.
GSI’s Business AfterSchool program is a series of career-connected learning workshops hosted by local businesses for students in grades 6-12. Students gain real-life skills, experiential learning in a workplace setting, and explore local career pathways highlighted by business professionals. During the 2021-2022 school year, Amazon, Bernado-Wills Architects, CHAS Health, TDS Fiber, Wagstaff, WSU Spokane, and UW Spokane School of Medicine hosted Business AfterSchool workshops for more than 80 middle and high school students.
GSI’s Teaching the Teachers events give educators the chance to attend a workshop hosted by a local business to learn about the relevant skills students need to open a pathway for future careers. In the 2021-2022 school year, Wagstaff and Biotility hosted 25 teachers.
The Education & Talent team continues to work with community partners on strategies to address talent gaps. Feel free to reach out to the Education & Talent team with any questions, suggestions, or interest in being a part of this exciting work.
Meet the Education & Talent team
Dr. Christi Harter, Vice President, Education & Talent, and Executive Director Spokane STEM Network, joined GSI in March 2022, and comes with a rich background and 20+ combined years of experience in the PK-20 system. Most recently she has served as the Washington Association of Educational Service Districts (ESD) Lead for Educational Technology Professional Learning. Prior to that, she was an instructor in the Education Department at the University of Calgary and CTE faculty at Eastern Washington University. Additionally, she held leadership roles in Spokane Public Schools supporting CTE, K12 Innovative Programs, and AVID; and as the 21st Century Grant Coordinator for Colome School District in Colome, SD. She also served as a Director at the San Mateo County Office of Education in Redwood City, CA where she launched their county-wide STEM Center in collaboration with Bay Area businesses and in partnership with the California Department of Education. Christi holds an undergraduate degree in Mathematics Secondary Education, and both a Master’s and PhD in Educational Technology.
Cassidy Peterson has been with the GSI team for almost six years, leading a variety of roles on our Education & Talent team. Currently, she serves as our team’s Career Connected Learning (CCL) Manager and leads our Career Connect Washington Regional Network, strengthening CCL strategic alignment across the region. Cassidy, a graduate of Whitworth University, began her career at GSI and is passionate about connecting people and efforts for the betterment of building a strong community.