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Vocational Education Column

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To be responsible partners in workforce development, national and multinational corporations should focus on helping communities reach their goals, including smoothing the transition between school and the workplace, a new report says.

"The most effective collaborations between communities and corporations tend to focus on clear areas of mutual interest, such as workforce development and community economic development," says the report, called "Redefining Corporate Responsibility in a Global Economy: An Agenda for Action."

The document, published jointly by Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that focuses on education and training issues, and the Hitachi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Japanese electronics company, was released this month in Washington in conjunction with a round-table discussion among business executives.

The report offers an agenda to help strengthen the partnerships between corporations and communities in order to foster the development of a workforce capable of competing in the global economy.

Because a majority of high-paying jobs require more extensive education than in previous decades, "the linkage between education and industrial requirements is one that we, as a nation, had better focus on," Frank Doyle, the chairman of the Jobs for the Future board, said at a news conference. Mr. Doyle is a former executive vice president of the Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co.

The report recommends that corporations focus on four goals: improving education and training for workers; strengthening the "civic infrastructure" through networks of businesses, community organizations, and governments; encouraging workforce diversity as a "strategic asset"; and strengthening global efforts to reduce poverty, thereby increasing the world customer base.

The report cites one school-to-career transition program, operated by the Bank of America in cooperation with the state of California, as a model for other companies to emulate in creating civic networks. The partnership has devised a series of performance standards for entry-level banking jobs and, with the help of other employers, has established several hundred internships in banking in Sacramento.

Free copies of the report are available by writing JFF at 1 Bowdoin Square, Boston, Mass. 02114, or by calling (617) 742-5995.

--Peter West

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