Education

                           the situation

 Credit  Alice Keeler

America’s educators are among the hardest working and most dedicated participants in our society. However, our students face a challenge that cannot be overcome in the classroom alone. This challenge is a lack of exposure to the needs and requirements of future employers. Our students get little to no exposure to the real job market, they forge few if any ties to potential future employers, and they blindly pursue degrees which may prove far less valuable than they had expected.

For all of these reasons and more, schools and the private sector must increase communication, collaboration, and public-private partnership programs to support strained school budgets, improve curriculum, better prepare students  for their futures, and better connect employers with their future workforce. It is imperative that we capitalize on this new approach to education in order to rebuild our middle-class and and ensure that the next generation of Americans are the most skilled and competitive workers in the world.


policy solution

America’s educators are among the hardest working and most dedicated participants in our society. However, our students face a challenge that cannot be overcome in the classroom alone. This challenge is a lack of exposure to the needs and requirements of future employers. Our students get little to no exposure to the real job market, they forge few if any ties to potential future employers, and they blindly pursue degrees which may prove far less valuable than they had expected. For all of these reasons and more, schools and the private sector must increase communication, collaboration, and public-private partnership programs to support strained school budgets, improve curriculum, better prepare students for their futures, and better connect employers with their future workforce.

It is critical that you understand what we mean by these public-private partnerships. We are not talking about putting more soda machines in cafeterias or allowing private companies to commandeer public schools. We are talking about expanding successful programs which have pioneered around the country and focus on addressing the needs of students in a rapidly changing world and a constantly evolving job market. Let’s look at three examples of such programs.

In New York City, a partnership has formed between the City University of New York, the New York City Department of Education, and IBM known as Pathways in Technology Early College High School (or P-Tech for short). Together, they have created a program which not only delivers a first-class high school education, but also provides an associate’s degree program in computer science which puts students at the top of the list for jobs with IBM or similar companies. The original P-Tech location was built in an area of Brooklyn which had high poverty rates and poor student performance. In this setting, one might have low expectations for student achievement. However, by their fourth year in the program 74% of P-Tech students had met college readiness standards while the rest of New York state had only 39% of students college ready. These young people clearly want to learn and to achieve! They only needed the quality education program provided by P-Tech as well as the motivation of working towards a good job in a growing sector. This new type of school, which provides a distinct career path at the end of the education tunnel, is the catalyst that many students need for better performance and progression into middle-class jobs. This model can be replicated across the country and tailored to the needs of any of our fastest growing 21st century industries (health care, information technology, etc.). Tech firms and other industries can use this same approach to train the employees that they need anywhere, such as impoverished, rural, or neglected communities throughout America. This will allow us to rebuild our middle class and help students to find good jobs in growing and high-demand sectors.

 Credit  Wonderlane

Credit Wonderlane

In Colorado, CareerWise seeks to revolutionize America’s approach to education. Through this program, thousands of young apprentices will have the opportunity to work for employers in fields ranging from banking to manufacturing, earn salaries as well as college credit, forge strong relationships with potential future employers, and explore different careers before blindly choosing a college major. This gives students the job exposure and real world experience that they need to choose a career and degree which is appropriate for them. It gives employers a direct pipeline to potential future employees. And it gives schools the chance to share the responsibility of educating our next generation with private sector partners. Such a program would be ideal in high schools around the country. It must also be emphasized that these apprenticeships are in diverse fields, like banking and IT, manufacturing and healthcare, etc. Americans associate apprenticeships with only certain jobs, but that is not the case at CareerWise. Banks want to use apprenticeships to train their future employees just as much as manufacturers. Also , the excitement of real work and responsibility (as well as a real salary) makes this program very appealing to high school students.

Across the country, the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technical Education (ATE) program is bringing community colleges and high-tech companies together to create a highly skilled workforce that doesn’t need a four-year degree. There are still millions of middle-class jobs that do not require a college degree, but they do require some degree of specialized education. The ATE program provides this training in such diverse fields as photonics, cyber-security, nanotechnology, aerospace technology, and many more. These are important, distinguished, high demand, middle-class jobs that do not require a four-year degree. With the ATE program, we can create a strong middle class full of high skill technicians who are not saddled with student debt for most of their lives. This program is extremely beneficial and must be expanded.

The education models mentioned above represent innovative and successful methods of revolutionizing American education, strengthening our workforce, and rebuilding our middle class. These programs should be studied and emulated by state and local governments around the country, and encouraged by Congress and the Department of Education as well as the Department of Labor.