Learning Link, an education initiative led by Community Foundation DeKalb County, is aimed at improving the quality of life in DeKalb County, Indiana, through promoting continuous learning. Evidence makes clear that a community’s educational attainment is strongly linked to personal income, economic vitality, health and quality of life (Glaeser 2008).
As industry no longer offers high wages for low-skill jobs, an increasing number of DeKalb County citizens are struggling to be economically self-reliant. While the high school graduation rate in DeKalb County, Indiana has been commendable, many high school graduates are found to lack career-ready skills or the skills to enroll and complete the post-high school education or training program of their choice. The current percentage of DeKalb County high school students earning their diplomas is 89% (Department of Education, 2014), taking a small dip from 92% in 2013.
The number of adults with Associate’s degrees in DeKalb County has increased significantly since 2010, but more work is needed before DeKalb County is on par with the state average. Only 27% of DeKalb County adults have earned a 2-, 4-year or advanced degree compared to 36% in Indiana and 39% in the U.S. (2012 American Community Survey). By 2018, it is expected that 60% of all jobs in the U.S. will require some form of post-high school training or education (Georgetown University, 2012).
Unlike traditional initiatives that fund programs, Learning Link works differently. Learning Link identifies what exists in DeKalb County, then connects the different sectors and organizations of the community to produce results, creating bridges for communication and working together.
Achieving the community’s vision of improving the quality of life for all in DeKalb County through continuous learning is the work of three action teams and a steering committee. Each of the three action teams works within and across teams, ensuring a smooth transition from one life stage of learning to the next in a continuous circle.