Giving back to our community of country music fans – the most spirited, passionate and loyal fans – is a priority for us at CMT. In that spirit, we are thrilled to launch CMT Empowering Education, an initiative which will provide our viewers with a one-stop resource to explore new educational opportunities for themselves, their friends or their family members. With our ability to leverage the power of our brand and its many communication vehicles, we have high hopes that the campaign will make a meaningful difference in the lives of our viewers.
When Viacom partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a few years ago to launch the Get Schooled Foundation — dedicated to empowering young people to take charge of their education by staying in high school and going on to college, we at CMT supported that mission. We were inspired to connect our viewers to the initiative in a way that served their particular needs, but to best tailor a campaign to our viewers, we first examined research on our demographic gathered by the Gates Foundation.
With an audience that skews a bit older than some of our sister networks, the mission for the CMT education campaign had to encourage our viewers, no matter what their age, to go to school, or back to school in order to achieve their dreams. We believe this campaign is critical, especially in light of the current economy and the 3.7 million open jobs,* many of which go unfulfilled due to the lack of skilled applicants. That job skills gap creates an environment in which great job opportunities are indeed available, but closed to many because of the post-secondary or specialized education requirements.
We want to inform our audience of their options when it comes to higher education, from certifications, to two year degrees and four year colleges. With thousands of existing websites that address higher education, it became clear that figuring out where to start can be positively overwhelming. We wanted to cut through the clutter and help guide the user to the resources that were relevant to them. Rather than present all of the educational options and then leave them to sift through, we created a one-stop resource for a personalized plan of action.
We brought in experts and educators, our Advising Partners,** who ensured that we were connecting our viewers to the best resources available. After a year-long process of beta-testing we are thrilled to finally launch CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION.
At our launch event last week in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate enough to present CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION alongside a panel discussion about closing the skills gap through innovative partnerships, featuring some of the foremost minds in post-secondary education and workforce development, including Janet Bray, Executive Director for the Association for Career and Technical Education; René Bryce-Laporte, Program Manager for Skills for America’s Future/The Aspen Institute; and Gail Schwartz, Senior VP for Innovative Learning and Student Success at the American Association for Community Colleges. The panel was moderated by Andrew J. Rotherham, Co-founder and Partner at Bellwether Education and an education columnist for TIME.
The evening also included a performance by country recording artist Dustin Lynch of Broken Bow, who also shared his education story with the group. He’s one of many country artists, including Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Lionel Richie, whom we will be channeling in our efforts to help inspire and empower our viewers.
“I made a sacred promise to my family that I would graduate from college before I pursued my music full-time,” Lynch said. “I chose to study at David Lipscomb in Nashville so that I could be near Music Row and educate myself about the country music scene while I was also earning my degrees in Chemistry and Biology. So far both educations have paid off – in fact my college degree helped me land a job that supported me during the early days when I was working to earn my publishing and record deals.”
We invite each of you to check out the site. You just might get inspired!
Lucia Folk is Senior Director of Public Affairs for CMT.
*According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics – July 2012
**Advising partners for the CMT Empowering Education campaign include Achieving the Dream; Alltuition; Association of Career & Technical Education; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Center for Workforce & Economic Development; American Association of Community Colleges; National Skills Coalition and Skills for America’s Future, The Aspen Institute.