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GLI Boosts Degrees at Work Effort, But Needs to Play Catch-Up

Greater Louisville Inc. has increased its efforts to boost its Degrees at Work initiative, which is a partner of the city’s 55,000 Degrees program. Since the initiative was created in 2010, the GLI team in charge of the program has been gathering research and sending out survey’s to its member businesses who have expressed interest in connecting their employees with higher education. “What the surveys do is it helps us determine who the employees are that want to know more about education and how we can assist them,” said Turner Wathan, one of three  GLI is now shifting its focus on outreach, Wathen said, while still reaching out to businesses that might be interested in jumping on board. Universal Woods in Jeffersontown is one of nearly 30 companies that are members of the Degrees at Work program. It’s also one of 12 that sent surveys back to GLI to help them focus their efforts. Universal Woods helps its employees pay for tuition and books, which is around a $75,000 effort annually. There are currently around 10 Universal Woods employees in the Louisville area that are trying to complete degrees and by doing so would become part of the 55,000 degrees program. Degrees at Work helps connect companies with tools and resources that help their employees complete degrees. “On the employers side this isn’t about asking you to invest more money so your employees go back and get an education.  The reality of it is that employers pay their education workers more because they bring more to their bottom line,” said Wathen. Over the past two years GLI has helped 1,300 employees connect to higher education, and officials are hoping to increase that number with more outreach, he said. To meet its goal, GLI must help 15,000 Louisville employees earn their college degrees by 2020.