In early December 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) and the Birmingham Education Foundation partnered to create LaunchED, a pilot program for talent retention that seeks to expose students to internship and job opportunities in Birmingham and prepare them with life-readiness tools needed for success. Program managers are seeking employers to give Birmingham City Schools alumni internships in summer 2021 to help hone their professional development skills, with the hope of keeping their talents in the Birmingham region for years to come.
“Our Birmingham City School alums have limitless potential, and we are excited at the Birmingham Education Foundation to partner with the BBA to ensure we connect them to opportunities to work and grow as leaders in Birmingham,” said J.W. Carpenter, executive director of the Birmingham Education Foundation.
In addition to placing students into internships in the summer, LaunchED will also create a database of ongoing internship opportunities for students that will be found on OnBoard Birmingham, the BBA’s new talent attraction platform.
“Professional development is one of the great equalizers, and this program will establish a blueprint of equitable talent development in Birmingham,” said Karla Khodanian, manager of talent and higher education partnerships at the BBA. “This is an intentional recruitment strategy that targets students who already have close ties to our community, establishing a pipeline of support for Birmingham City Schools students beyond graduation day. It’s investing in the next generation of workforce so they can invest back into our community one day.”
A United Front
LaunchED joins other initiatives in Birmingham with similar goals.
“We’re focused on economic gardening,” says Josh Carpenter, Birmingham’s director of economic development. “We know that retention and expansion work is perhaps more important to the long-term sustainability and growth of the community than going after the big RFPs.”
A big challenge to keeping talent local is helping students overcome the high costs of a college degree. His office champions ways to reduce those costs with programs like Birmingham Promise, a scholarship program for public high school students that helps cover tuition and fees at Alabama’s public two- and four-year colleges, notes Carpenter.
“The city is putting its money where its mouth is. We see a real opportunity long term to harness the talent of the members of our community. We say talent is distributed equally in our community, but opportunity is not. The number one thing companies talk to me about is talent, whether they’re here already or looking to relocate.”
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.