Youth - The Real Future of the South: Georgia Discussion Forums
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Through the Southern Growth Policies Board, Governors and other key leaders of thirteen states and Puerto Rico jointly investigate economic development issues of high priority across the South. Each year, an issue is selected for in-depth research that results in policy and action recommendations for implementation at local, state, and regional levels. A critical part of the process is the facilitation of community-based forums. In 2008, the key policy question was “What are the biggest challenges facing our community, and how can young people help address these challenges?” Building upon the 2006 and 2007 efforts, and to further support Southern Growth and the State of Georgia, in 2008, a series of discussions focused specifically on youth development and engagement were launched in Georgia. The focus was identified by Southern Growth in recognition of the immense value and potential of youth development as a critical building block toward developing a strong workforce and fostering knowledge-driven innovation that fosters new technologies and business opportunities. This effort was conducted under the sponsorship and leadership of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, the State Workforce Investment Board, and the Georgia Department of Labor. The work of this broad-based and collaborative partnership included conducting a survey and hosting several discussion forums with Georgia’s youth to gather input on Southern Growth’s policy question. The survey and forums were developed and implemented by a university team comprised of professionals from Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The 2008 survey and forums generated data speaking to the preparation and perspective of the next generation workforce, as well as input about their level of engagement within their communities. Nearly 1,800 young people from across Georgia completed the on-line survey. Of these, 152 attended in-person forums that gathered their reaction to the survey questions. The implementation of the 2008 Southern Growth Policies Board’s Youth—The Real Future of the South initiative in Georgia was a collaborative effort involving many statewide partners, institutions of higher education, local government and educational institutions, and, most importantly, the hundreds of young people who took the time to express their opinions about the state of youth in Georgia today.