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Chattanooga 2.0 Executive Director Jared Bigham speaks during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board in the newsroom on Friday, May 11, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As the second anniversary of Chattanooga 2.0 approaches, this is an appropriate time to answer some key questions about what this community-wide movement is all about what it has accomplished.

Chattanooga 2.0 was formed to support the transformation of educational and workforce opportunities all across Hamilton County. We know if we do this right, we also will transform the employment opportunities and quality of life for every person in our community.

» So, is Chattanooga 2.0 a coalition?

Yes, it is a coalition of the willing with more than 150 community organizations and dozens of community leaders aligning their work around specific projects.

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Visit Chatt2.org today to learn more.

One example was this summer's Camp-K program, offering kindergarten readiness instruction to 300 rising kindergartners. More than 15 organizations came together to make this program possible. At the other end of the cradle-through-career continuum, Hamilton County Schools' new Future Ready Institutes offer another example of dozens of community organizations and businesses being brought together to develop a workforce and job-ready skills program for students in 13 of our high schools.

» So, 2.0 is really about developing the talent needed to help local employers?

Yes, and it's more than talent development; it's about us getting ready for the jobs of the future. I've heard Sarah Morgan, Benwood Foundation president, say on many occasions that Chattanooga 1.0 was all about "place" and the revitalization of our downtown and the riverfront, and that Chattanooga 2.0 must be about our people and creating greater opportunities for all of our citizens.

» How did 2.0 begin and what are its goals?

The Chattanooga 2.0 coalition was first catalyzed by a report published in the fall of 2015 by four community organizations: Hamilton County Schools, the Chamber of Commerce, the Public Education Foundation and the Benwood Foundation. This 2015 report looked at the hard facts of our education and workforce pipeline — from birth to a job. The picture it painted was, as my grandfather would say, "ugly as homemade soap."

The report highlighted that although Hamilton County offered abundant job opportunities, and we were rapidly attracting new employers, our local Hamilton County graduates were not able to access those opportunities because of a significant gap in job-ready-skills and/or post-secondary degrees and credentials.

Typically when a report like this is published, it ends with recommendations of a few strategies to address the challenge. However, the leaders of the 2.0 coalition were adamant that any strategies created and implemented must also ask for and fully reflect community input. And when asked, the community responded positively and helped us focus our work across the entire cradle-through-career continuum.

We heard that to be successful, we needed to take the long view of the work and its results. That's why we believe that supporting babies and their cognitive development is as important, maybe even more important, than the support we give high school students and graduates obtaining a market-value credential.

Currently, more than half of our Hamilton County students are caught in a disheartening cycle of "catch-up," after entering kindergarten without the foundational skills they need to be successful. Every academic year after academic year is spent trying to bring them up to grade level, until too often, they end up graduating without the skills or opportunities they need to obtain a meaningful post-secondary credential or a living wage job.

And that is also why one of the priority areas identified through our community engagement was the need to close the opportunity gap, by giving all students access to opportunities regardless of background or ZIP code. From the 2.0 perspective, closing the opportunity gap is something that must be layered into all the work we do.

Now is the time to invest in our people — with education and training — to ensure greater access and opportunity for all — in every neighborhood and every family — as we build a bridge to the jobs of the future in Hamilton County.

Jared Bigham is executive director of Chattanooga 2.0. Contact him at jared@chatt2.org.

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