Richmond has been designated as one of 17 Talent Hub communities by the Lumina Foundation.

Lumina Foundation designates Richmond as Talent Hub

Bridging Richmond, VCU among community partners working to increase attainment beyond high school.

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Lumina Foundation has announced Richmond as one of 17 communities across the country designated as a Talent Hub, which comes with a $350,000 grant. Richmond earned this new designation by meeting rigorous standards for creating environments that attract, retain and cultivate talent, particularly among today’s students, many of whom are people of color, the first in their families to go to college, and from low-income households.

Bridging Richmond, a cradle-to-career partnership, will lead Richmond’s effort. Virginia Commonwealth University founded the Bridging Richmond partnership in 2009 and has provided an administrative home in the Office of the Provost and Division of Community Engagement since 2012. Jason Smith, Ph.D., executive director for Bridging Richmond, convened United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, John Tyler Community College, Reynolds Community College and VCU to develop Richmond’s Talent Hub application and work plan. The partners will collaborate to accelerate regional credential attainment by establishing data-sharing agreements and implementing targeted interventions to support adults with some postsecondary experience but no credential.

“Educational attainment is an important component of the success of families and individuals in our region,” said James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg and co-chair of Bridging Richmond. “I am excited about the Talent Hub designation and I look forward to working with regional partners to continue this critical work in the years ahead.”

Proposed work in Richmond will enable the postsecondary partners to establish data-sharing agreements and implement reverse transfer protocols. The partners will also coordinate targeted advising and financial assistance programs. These programs will assist students who are within a few credits of earning a credential at their home institutions. Partners will also conduct degree audits of students who have dropped out of college after accumulating enough credits to earn a degree and contact them with advice concerning degree options. 

Finally, partners will align community supports and expand awarding of completion micro-grants to students with financial need who are within one or two semesters of graduating. Bridging Richmond partners are committed to closing equity gaps for African-American, Hispanic and low-income students, who are more likely to drop out of college for financial reasons and would, therefore, benefit the most from the system changes established through the proposed work.

Each Talent Hub focuses intensively on one of three populations that is critical to raising the nation’s overall post-high school attainment level to 60 percent of working-age adults by 2025: 18-to-22-year-old students; older adults with college experience who stopped out before finishing their studies; or adults with no formal education beyond high school. Talent Hub cities are committed to eliminating deep disparities in educational outcomes among African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians, who fare poorly in contrast with white and Asian students.

These communities are the creative and entrepreneurial engines that power our nation.

The 17 communities designated as Talent Hubs are: Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Boston; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Denver; Fresno, Calif.; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Philadelphia; Racine, Wis.; Richmond; Shasta County, Calif.; and Tulsa, Okla.

“These communities are the creative and entrepreneurial engines that power our nation,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “For our country to meet growing demand for an educated workforce, we must bolster community-based efforts that are tightly focused on increasing the numbers of people in cities across the country with education and training beyond high school.”

Each community designated as a Talent Hub will receive $350,000 in grant funding over 42 months. Grant funding will support local efforts to educate more people, allowing community and postsecondary leaders to better meet the specific needs of residents. Lumina will provide these funds in partnership with the Kresge Foundation.

Kresge’s support for Talent Hubs comes from its national education program, which includes a focus on aligning and strengthening urban higher education ecosystems to help more low-income, underrepresented and minority students gain access to and succeed in higher education.

The Talent Hub designation serves both as an aspirational target for other cities to aim for and a platform from which cities designated as Talent Hubs can build. Talent Hubs are one outgrowth of Lumina’s Community Partnerships for Attainment, which was in access of $10 million of grants to 75 cities across the country. This partnership, which began in 2013, will continue to work directly with communities to expand educational opportunities beyond high school.