Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

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Otis Rush, 1934 -2018

By Jim O’neal

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Perhaps the most driven, impassioned, and creatively gifted of the young singers and guitarists who became known for the West Side style of Chicago blues in the 1950s and ’60s was Otis Rush. The records he made while still in his early twenties for the Cobra label, such as I Can’t Quit You Baby, Double Trouble, and All Your Love (I Miss Loving), still stand the test of time as classics of the electric blues genre. His influence has been acknowledged by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Carlos Santana, who have all performed onstage with him.

The Blues Foundation mourns the passing of Otis Rush who was inducted intothe Blues Hall of Fame in 1984

Rush grew up in such dire poverty in Mississippi that few listeners realized the depth of the lyrics to Double Trouble when he sang, “It’s hard to for me to find decent clothes to wear.” Born near the rural community of Neshoba on April 29, 1935 (or 1934 according to most biographies), Rush married young, sharecropped his own fields, and discovered a new path in life when his sister took him to a Muddy Waters performance in Chicago.

Rush, a self-taught guitarist who played left-handed with the guitar upside down, began performing in the Chicago clubs and soon caught the attention of Willie Dixon, who took him to Cobra and then to the Chess and Duke labels. I Can’t Quit You Baby, his first single, hit the national rhythm & blues Top Ten in 1956, but it was the only Rush record ever to do so. In light of Rush’s talent and the reputation his band held as the best in town at one time, his discography is disappointingly sparse. The frustrations of what he viewed as bad deals, suspicious offers, and mismanagement meant that studio sessions became few and far between, and many of the albums on the market now are live performances. Excellent though some of them are, they leave the listener wondering what more Rush had in him that he never let out. His last studio album, Any Place I’m Going, did, however, earn him his only Grammy.

Photo: Svein M. Agnalt

Sadly, Rush suffered a stroke in 2004 and has been unable to perform since, but was honored in 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel during the Chicago Blues Festival where June 12th was declared Otis Rush Day in Chicago.

We join the rest of the blues world in sending condolences to his family. May his spirit live on through his wonderful music.

Otis Rush and Eric Clapton

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Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

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Meat Me in Memphis Gala

Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One Commerce Square.  The Columns offers 20,000 square feet of historic grandeur while providing all the modern attractions of a vibrant downtown. This year, Meat Me in Memphis will be held on Thursday, October 25 at 5:30 PM until 9:00 PM.

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Who’s that girl: meet rebekah hedges
By Rebekah Hedges
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 
Although I hope elephant would never be featured on a menu, this phrase has been spoken to me throughout challenges in life. The elephants; tasks, challenges or obstacles I’d yet to overcome, have stampeded through life, yet led me to Bluff City, my new home.
Hi, my name is Rebekah Hedges and I’m an educator, writer, photographer and former crime and events reporter. Though I’m not Zooey Deschanel, I’m happy to be the New Girl with JustMyMemphis.

I’m from Allen, Texas and watched my hometown, once corn fields, develop into a booming suburb thirty minutes north of Dallas, Texas. Though I am a proud Texan, I’ve always been an adventurer and have traveled to more than 20 states, three countries and speak Spanish and elementary Mandarin.

I’ve always been a storyteller, to anyone willing to listen due to my social butterfly tendencies. More importantly I enjoy hearing and learning from people with different backgrounds and cultures. Over time I developed a love for writing, reporting and journalism. 
There’s been a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember.
( photo by Klara Johannsen )
My childhood didn’t include an iPhone, but instead the izone polaroid camera. You remember the oblong rectangular polaroid that printed one inch by two inch photos that could even be stored in a locket? (I had the Bugs Bunny one.)
I look forward to using my Canon and photography skills as the “New Girl” of the #FunCrew for JustMyMemphis. My work experiences have taken me from small “tourist towns” such as Hot Springs, Ark., to metropolises such as Tianjin, China.

Who’s That Girl?

Throughout my work and life experiences, elephants have nudged their way in. I believe in the power of perseverance, as a woman, I believe learning and sharing your voice is the best weapon to overcoming these obstacles.
In my final year of earning my degree in the small town of Siloam Springs, Ark., at John Brown University, I became inspired by the local stories Siloam had to offer. A team of three fellow students and I told the stories of two student-owned businesses and two family-owned businesses.
We told the story of a local seamstress, her shop named Threads, and learned that she had spent several years in foreign countries as a missionary and found her calling by helping people look their best in clothing. 
Through video, photography and writing we shared the story of how a local pupuseria and restaurant, Las Delicias, shared the rich flavors of El Salvador and impacted the Siloam Springs community.
It was then I realized the power of giving a person a voice through media and writing. As a former writer and photographer for HER Magazine, a women’s magazine in Hot Springs, Ark., I had the opportunity to tell the stories of diverse women making waves in their careers through their talents and skills.
It was then I realized the power of giving a person a voice through media and writing

From a 12 year-old angler overcoming bullying as the only girl on the fishing team, to a Romanian immigrant woman becoming the prison investigator for the Garland County Criminal Investigations Division, I’ve been inspired by how these women did not allow stereotypes or criticism to hold them back from their true potential. 
One of the biggest elephants that’s a returning visitor, is self doubt. I know many can relate to the criticism you take from the relentless voice of doubt.
It whispers: Is that good enough? You’re not making a difference. No one will listen, no one will care. What if every time you try you will just fail? You’re just the new girl, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not smart enough, attractive enough, skilled enough…etc. etc.
I know that having cheerleaders in life are crucial to overcoming these whispers. I’ve learned that trusting your skills and having an open mind to critique is the best way to chasing what you’re meant to become. 
I’m excited to listen and tell the stories that the communities of Memphis have to offer. 
And I encourage you, when those whispers tell you the elephants that stand in your way are too big, grab that fork, because it’s time to tackle that beast one bite at a time!

justmy features

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

community powered what's your story? Sponsor Spotlight The Blues Foundation Our Mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form. Through...

Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

  community powered what's your story?   Event spotlight Meat Me in Memphis Gala Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One...

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

  County Edge Task Force: getting real By Joe Kent This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement? The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and...

Twisted Time Creations

twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

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Edge Task Force: Getting Real

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

County Edge Task Force:

getting real

By Joe Kent

This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement?

The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and locally self-inflicted economic development conditions in Shelby County. At the same time, task force member Carolyn Hardy continued the simplistic and sloganistc “good not great” rhetoric to describe the work of the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

Such rhetoric is disconnected from any sort of data supported reality and seems designed to support the status quo. This disconnect marked the low point of the meeting which was otherwise marked by frank, open and productive discussion of issues that challenge the local economic development ecosystem.

Eric Robertson of Community Lift was added as a task force member by County Commission Chairman Van Turner. Commissioner and Task Force Chair Willie Brooks, Commissioner Reginald Milton, Carolyn Hardy, Eric Robertson, Al Bright, Cary Vaughn and Les Binkley were task force members present with Jack Sammons, Calvin Anderson and Ron Belz absent. New Commissioner Amber Mills was present as an interested observer. And based on an email from the County Commission, the pubic audio record will not be available due to technical difficulties.

Meeting Recap

Dexter Muller a local economic development expert led in testimony with a presentation that stressed a strategic plan framework that consisted of a focus on 1) available sites, 2) target industry sectors, 3) workforce development and 4) marketing. Muller stated that Shelby County is not getting State of Tennessee referrals for manufacturing based on a lack of available sites while also citing concerns over Holmes Road transportation infrastructure that has been delayed since 2001.

Muller also promoted tapping local water resource assets to spur local economic development while referencing Dupont Solae that saves $1M per year by operating and leveraging high quality water resources in Memphis. Dupont Solae will be discussed later.

Mark Halperin of Boyle followed Muller with testimony that emphasized community assets in quality of life and low cost of living while citing concerns regarding efficient air travel, neglected transportation Holmes Road infrastructure and workforce. Halperin also touted the teamwork involved in the highly successful ServiceMaster save.

In questioning, Cary Vaughn representing the County on the EDGE Board, persisted in advocating for a connected strategy throughout Shelby County which has been a concern for areas outside of Memphis. Harold Byrd, representing the County Chambers will appear at the next County EDGE Task Force meeting.

Carolyn Hardy, Al Bright and Eric Robertson rightly focused on local small business support which is where most local economic growth comes from across the country. Calls to work together with local small business were made while known local small business proposals to address workforce development remain stifled by the rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow complex at the expense of 60,000 learners and a business community in need of workers.

Calls for a new EDGE Board were not addressed by the task force after 7 of the 9 board members have served for 7 years. This was made possible by a Memphis Tomorrow supported City/County resolution that did not protect the public interest with term limits for board members or approval of economic modeling to justify excessive tax abatements.

 

Analysis – Self Inflicted

The economic development “crisis” as described by Council Chairman Berlin Boyd is a Memphis Tomorrow / Memphis Corporate Community Leadership (MCCL) self-inflicted crisis. Memphis Tomorrow is a local CEO organization that has historically guided economic policy development. But based on the data, Memphis Tomorrow appears to be a meddler of sorts rigging up the system for a small few at the expense of a community in need. This conclusion is supported by local work that has not been prioritized to include operating without a measurable commonly understood definition for economic development and a plan that adequately addresses site readiness, workforce, public transit and small business.

Based on EDGE Task Force questioning and testimony, it’s clear that a measurable definition for economic development along with a strategic plan remain outstanding. The lack of a definition for economic development occurs after the new economic development thought leader in the social media group Memphis Raise Your Expectations (the people) proposed a definition using the only known available public survey on the matter to the County Commission. But the problem is that the people are not considered in a rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow social construct

The above has gone neglected over the last 7 years as excessive EDGE corporate / real estate tax abatements for local companies have been prioritized using incomplete bogus accounting at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $250M+ . The former occurs while EDGE reports a $600M gain on the local practice of transferring wealth to corporate / real estate interests at the expense of many. This results in a system out of balance.

One such example of an excessive local PILOT can be referenced from Mr. Muller’s testimony involving Dupont Solae that saves $1M per year while leveraging geographically unique local water resources. In addition to that savings, the EDGE Board of which Mr. Muller is not a part, went on to award Dupont Solae an additional total $5M tax abatement over 11 years against existing jobs while justifying it with its very own incomplete bogus accounting methodology.

Erasing the above excesses in tax abatements will go a long way in addressing deficient economic growth by investing locally. Using a connected county wide approach, local investments would target career education, public transit, small business development and site development. It can be shown that the majority of local deficient $1.57B total wage growth can be addressed through a focus on career education and small business.

Conclusion

Getting economic development right will require frank data centric discussions that are diametrically opposed to the rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow social construct. Such discussions should result in a measurable economic development definition and the implementation of a connected Shelby County wide economic development plan that lifts the quality of life for all.
 

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Mr. Joe B. Kent has worked throughout the country on workforce and economic development projects and is a reform activist in Memphis. Joe B. has a BBA in Finance, Masters in Instructional Technology and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with an emphasis on labor market information.

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justmy features

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

community powered what's your story? Sponsor Spotlight The Blues Foundation Our Mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form. Through...

Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

  community powered what's your story?   Event spotlight Meat Me in Memphis Gala Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One...

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

  County Edge Task Force: getting real By Joe Kent This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement? The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and...

Twisted Time Creations

twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

Time to #BeAmazing

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We believe there is an amazing story just waiting to be told inside everyone.  Stories that inspire change, ideas, and action.  Some stories are painful, some are fun, and others are life changing.  BeAmazing and share your story today on JustMy!

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Twisted Time Creations

Twisted Time Creations

twisted time creations
art that speaks memphis

This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!

Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18 years of my life, I traveled all over the US, coast to coast, corner to corner. All I can say is, there is no place like home.

My start to art began way before I can remember. Just like any other great artist, my first canvas was the walls in my childhood home. My bedroom, the hallway, anyplace I saw that needed improvement, I put my crayons to work. I remember the days back in elementary school. The teacher would try to educate me and all I wanted to do was draw. My first art was always planes and trucks. I was good at drawing jets at many angles of the flight. My mom knew I had a gift and enrolled me in art lessons. They took place on Saturday mornings at a place called Arts East. There I learned depth, shadows, shading, highlights, and eye perspective. As I got older onto middle school, it was drawing on the desk tops and book covers. I was good at drawing album covers like Metallica and Megadeth, and of course was still drawing planes. Then I progressed to a Salvador Dali style. The strange, eye-teasing art that has the artist’s thoughts out of his head onto paper and the viewer either understands it or has their own take on it. Art is always up to the eye of the beholder.

As far as my start in clocks go, it started during a long drive after I saw a picture on the web of a clock that was different from a normal grandfather clock. I said to myself, I can make that but it will be very different from any clock out there. So that long drive, I planned out all that was needed to build. Each cut, how the wood was going to bend, the height, the size, it was all mapped out and created in my thoughts. My beginning with wood was building ramps. I made a handful in my teenage years and gradually moved up to building a large half pipe in my back yard. That was the beginning of having wood bend and curve. Around the same period in high school, I took wood shop. Of course, that comes with bong making and paddle making, really just a class to pass time. I did learn and kept with me the art or process of sanding and staining wood. I made a few projects, nothing big or fancy, but I did enjoy the painting and finishing process of wood. So with all that, I knew I could build clocks and furniture like no other, and wanted to hear from people how the heck can that be.

 

 

I can say I’m grateful for having a gift that gives me the ability to see or create a vision in my head, and use my hands to make it come out to life. Whether it’s on paper, canvas, or constructing art with wood.

This latest clock is a Memphis themed clock. This one has been a challenge, with more wood work involved. I love the city I was raised in. Memphis has great culture, music, and heritage, just a city with a bright soul. I wanted to put in as much of Memphis that is on the map as what makes the city Memphis. From Graceland to the pyramid, of course, the bridge, and all in between.

As far as my goals for the clock, I have a few ideas. I could have a sponsor donate money for the cost of the build, and donate the clock to St. Jude, or any of the Memphis visitor’s centers or the airport. Perhaps FedEx would like to put it in the lobby of one of their buildings or Graceland may like to have in one of the gift shops or lobby. I’m not sure, but it speaks Memphis and should be out for the people of Memphis to see. Any thoughts or ideas from the people would be helpful.

 

 

 

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justmy features

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

community powered what's your story? Sponsor Spotlight The Blues Foundation Our Mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form. Through...

Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

  community powered what's your story?   Event spotlight Meat Me in Memphis Gala Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One...

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

  County Edge Task Force: getting real By Joe Kent This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement? The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and...

Twisted Time Creations

twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

Time to #BeAmazing

Share Your Story Today!

We believe there is an amazing story just waiting to be told inside everyone.  Stories that inspire change, ideas, and action.  Some stories are painful, some are fun, and others are life changing.  BeAmazing and share your story today on JustMy!
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Join the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Join the Fight Against Breast Cancer

#memphisstrides

This article is brought to you by The Wendy Thompson Lending Team. More Than A Mortgage!

MAKING STRIDES OF MEMPHIS

The American Cancer Society (ACS) hosted its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer kickoff breakfast at Memphis Botanic Garden on August 23 to share details about its upcoming, free community walk on Sunday, October 21 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The Greater Memphis walk celebrates its 18th year in 2018. Flagship sponsors are Kroger, Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino, Tunica Roadhouse, and Allstate. Registration for the Oct. 21 Making Strides event begins at 1:30 p.m. and the walk starts at 3 p.m. There is no cost to register; however, teams are encouraged to fundraise to support the Society’s life-saving mission.

Dollars raised help the ACS fund innovative breast cancer research; provide education and guidance to help people reduce their risk; and offer comprehensive patient support to those who need it most.

Since 1993, more than 14 million supporters have raised more than $870 million nationwide. Last year, more than 5,000 walkers in Greater Memphis helped to raise approximately $600,000.

At the Aug. 23 kickoff, Autumn Rodriguez of Power & Tel, the morning’s sponsor, welcomed guests. Local 24 anchor Katina Rankin emceed the event, and highlighted how individuals, businesses, and organizations can support the ACS’s work to help save lives from breast cancer. 

#memphisstrides

#IgniteWithStrides #MemphisStrides

Featured survivor speaker, Suzanne Horsley, encouraged attendees to stay up to date on their cancer screenings. She also left them with the inspirational message to, “cherish every day and make a difference.”

Candace Dean, senior community manager for the ACS’s Greater Memphis office, encourages Mid-Southerners to come together on Oct. 21 to raise funds, celebrate survivorship and pay meaningful tributes to loved ones lost.

“Because of the determination of Making Strides supporters, the American Cancer Society is there for people in every community affected by breast cancer, whether they’re currently dealing with a diagnosis, may face one in the future, or will avoid it altogether because of education and risk reduction,” said Dean.

Visit MakingStridesWalk.org/MemphisTN or call your area’s American Cancer Society office at 901-278-2091 to join the walk, make a donation, or host a fundraiser.

Join the conversation on social media at Facebook.com/MakingStridesMemphis; Twitter @MSABCMemphis; and Instagram @ACSMemphis.

Sponsor the event

Our Making Strides walk offers a unique opportunity to reach passionate participants in our community. As a Making Strides sponsor, you will help support the American Cancer Society in working to create a world free from the pain and suffering caused by breast cancer.

Volunteer at the event

You’re just a quick step from volunteering to support the Making Strides walk! None of this would be possible without dedicated volunteers donating their time and talent. Walk with the American Cancer Society volunteer family, and you will help us to end the pain and suffering caused by breast cancer.

View walk details

At our Making Strides walk, you can share in an inspiring mix of passion and purpose – exceptional courage of survivors, meaningful tributes to loved ones lost, and collective determination to raise funds to help finish the fight! Be sure to check often leading up to our event for important event-day details.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’re here to answer any questions you might have about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, but if you have a question that’s not answered below, please let us know. Call us anytime at 1-800-227-2345.

What is Making Strides Against Breast Cancer?

The American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is a powerful event to raise awareness and funds to end breast cancer. As the largest network of breast cancer events in the nation, the noncompetitive 3- to 5-mile walks unite communities with a shared determination to create a world free from the pain and suffering of breast cancer. Passionate participants raise critical funds enabling the Society to fund innovative breast cancer research; provide free, comprehensive information and support to those touched by breast cancer; and help people reduce their breast cancer risk or find it early when it’s most treatable.

Who can participate in Making Strides events?

Anyone can participate in a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The success of our events depends on passionate individuals who commit to raising funds, generous donors who support our participants, and dedicated corporate and community sponsors. You can walk as an individual or as part of a team. Teams can be comprised of friends, families, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers. Organizations or businesses can also coordinate and sponsor teams of walkers.

How much money does the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk raise for the American Cancer Society?

Since 1993, more than 12 million walkers across the United States have raised more than $750 million to help fight breast cancer through Making Strides events. In 2015 alone, 1.4 million walkers across the country raised more than $60 million to help finish the fight against breast cancer.

What happens with the money raised from Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events?

Funds raised through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events help the American Cancer Society work to free the world from the pain and suffering of breast cancer. The Society is::

  • Investing in innovative breast research to better understand, prevent, find, and treat the disease
  • Providing free, comprehensive information and support to those touched by breast cancer in every community, when and where they need it.
  • Helping people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early when it’s most treatable.
How do I turn in the money I raise?

You can turn in money at the event or your supporters can donate online through our secure website. If you have not finished collecting your donations by event day, or if you’re unable to attend, send your contribution form and remaining donations to your local American Cancer Society office.

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justmy features

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

community powered what's your story? Sponsor Spotlight The Blues Foundation Our Mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form. Through...

Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

  community powered what's your story?   Event spotlight Meat Me in Memphis Gala Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One...

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

  County Edge Task Force: getting real By Joe Kent This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement? The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and...

Twisted Time Creations

twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

Time to #BeAmazing

Share Your Story Today!

We believe there is an amazing story just waiting to be told inside everyone.  Stories that inspire change, ideas, and action.  Some stories are painful, some are fun, and others are life changing.  BeAmazing and share your story today on JustMy!

Like and Share justmymemphis on Facebook Click Now!

REGIONAL TALENT PIPELINE DEVELOPMENT: THE AGE OF AGILITY

REGIONAL TALENT PIPELINE DEVELOPMENT: THE AGE OF AGILITY

REGIONAL TALENT PIPELINE DEVELOPMENT:

THE AGE OF AGILITY

By Joe Kent – Guest Blogger

This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement?

Sponsored locally by HRO Partners and Jaguar/Land Rover Bluff City, the nation touring Age of Agility education to employment conference was just held in Memphis. The conference encourages a regional conversation around human talent pipeline development in support of regional economic development goals.

The conference was encouraging based on Tennessee being newly recognized as a leader in educational reform while the University of Memphis fires on all cylinders with innovative partnerships and offerings that keep student costs down. Educators listening to customer employer needs and employers being more involved in the talent pipeline development effort were consistent themes. Largely unanswered concerns from audience members were around specific next steps to get industry more involved with local education. This concern will be addressed later in this article in concert with discussion involving local workforce development organizations in the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) and the Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW).

At the conference, industry employers were represented by Chris Winton VP of FedEx Human Resources, Gretchen Stroud VP of Hilton Learning and Bradley Jackson President of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. Education was represented by Dr. David Rudd President of the University of Memphis, Dr. Candice McQueen, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Education and Mike Krause, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Business and Education

From business, Jackson discussed how workforce preparedness has grown in importance in recent years. Winton and Stroud stated that college degrees were much less important today while stressing the importance of true skill attainment that includes soft skills and career pathways counseling starting in middle school. Winton also stressed the importance of entrepreneurial education for all to support cross functional skill development since entrepreneurs must function across multiple areas of expertise. Cross functional skill development gives students agility in the workforce while entrepreneurial education encourages starting a small business which is a Memphis economic development need.

From education, McQueen focused on career counseling, work-based learning and transforming the 11th and 12th grade experience toward a more relevant post-secondary focus while in high school. Work based learning includes high school credit for internships, apprenticeships and paid work experience. Krause stressed no-cost 1 to 2 year certification/degree access for all via Tennessee Promise, listening to customer employers for specific needs to improve the curriculum and relying more on technology for instructional delivery to engage current day students. And Rudd discussed a nation leading innovative industry partnership with FedEx, managing student tuition affordability and the high-quality University of Memphis Online Global degree platform which will be further discussed in an upcoming article. All educators praised the work of the Tennessee General Assembly which was represented by Representative Mark White of Memphis, Chairman of the House Education Committee.

Next Steps

Audience members seemed most curious about specific next steps to continue the regional conversation to get industry more involved in education which was not covered at the conference. Next steps to continue a productive conversation between diverse professional groups (industry and educators) requires a common language. In this case, common language can be established using customer employer skill and knowledge demand married with student needs to close the skills gap using career pathways curriculum.

Business education partnerships have been around a long time and fail regularly. This failure can be linked to the lack of a common language. A 2014 report from the North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development found that employers and researchers definitions of “skills” often differ from one another and even scientific surveys use a variety of designs and definitions of “skills”.

This finding points to the need for establishing a common set of skills and definitions demanded by the customers of the workforce development system in employers. Given this, the following steps can be taken to support a productive and sustainable conversation between employers and educators:

Step 1. Establish a common dataset of employer demanded skills and knowledge (Demand)
Step 2. Identify student career preferences, interests, needs and skills through assessment (Supply)
Step 3. Integrate standards based academic curriculum with employer demanded skills, knowledge and technology with personalized student learning (Career Pathways)

The above steps provide a common language foundation to support productive and ongoing communication between customer employers and educators. Additionally, the above steps provide a methodology for integrating a meaningful part of the career counseling workload into the academic curriculum. In this way, career counselors support a career infused academic curriculum.

The career infused academic curriculum for all then provides entry points for industry to engage the educational system while productively communicating with educators using a common language. The resulting standards-based career pathways curriculum then insures educators that they are seamlessly meeting both academic standards and customer employer demand requirements to support regional economic development efforts.

WIN and GMACW

Unlike many communities, the good news is that Memphis has the organizations in place to accelerate the workforce development conversation in the age of agility. On the other hand, mired in red tape, as reported by Memphis Business Journal, collectively, the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) and Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW) have struggled to help fill 15,000 current job openings.

Disconnected efforts are often referenced for the ineffectiveness per the above article and in another Memphis Business Journal article featuring the observations of local business leader R. Brad Martin. Clearly defining the respective roles of WIN and GMACW for all local stakeholders would well serve local efforts. One approach may be to define WIN’s role to serve out of school audiences and GMACW’s to serve in school audiences.

Once respective organization roles are established, a common language should be deployed to facilitate productive conversations between diverse stakeholders to support local talent pipeline and economic development efforts. A common language would establish 1) datasets to define employer demand 2) occupationally aligned assessments to diagnose people’s needs (supply) and 3) Career pathways curriculum to support people in developing the skills to pursue desired careers, connecting with and filling jobs.

Conclusion

The age of agility demands an ongoing conversation to support talent pipeline development efforts to drive regional economic growth. It’s a conversation that leverages technology while promoting in demand career pathways and supports developing the academic, soft and cross functional entrepreneurial skills required to succeed in the age of agility.

The ongoing conversation requires industry engagement and workforce development / curricular systems that accommodate engagement. WIN and GMACW, equipped with defined organizational roles, should be leveraged to accomplish the above while relying on best practices in work-based learning as demonstrated by such organizations as the Greater Memphis Medical Device Council.

In the end, it’s about leveraging available resources and connecting the dots through an ongoing conversation to develop and retain talent while promoting in demand career pathways to drive regional economic growth in the age of agility.

joe b. kent

Guest Blogger

Mr. Joe B. Kent has worked throughout the country on workforce and economic development projects and is a reform activist in Memphis. Joe B. has a BBA in Finance, Masters in Instructional Technology and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with an emphasis on labor market information.

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