Author: Shaun E. McAlmont
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Several months ago, my colleague Leilani Brown penned an excellent oped for Newsweek that called on the private sector to do more to help today’s students prepare for tomorrow’s careers.
Whether out of pure
philanthropy or as an early entry point to future customers—or most likely a
mix of both—corporate America already contributes to schools in a big way, from
direct financial support to a consistent voice at the national level calling
for high academic standards and an emphasis on STEM.
Those are the easy things to do, especially because they align with ongoing business objectives and efforts. But what Leilani is calling for, and to which I lend my own name, is a much deeper level of engagement:
Companies should be looking to partner with education
institutions on programs that prepare students to start a career right after
graduation, or to work and learn while they pursue a higher degree … Corporate
partners also help educational institutions ensure the curricula they are using
is keeping pace with quickly-evolving technology.
Outside the classroom, companies can offer internships and
shadowing opportunities to high school students to ensure a seamless transition
from learning to doing. By participating in career readiness initiatives,
companies can identify and recruit top talent with the assurance their
employees have the skills and credentials they need to succeed.
It’s this broader alignment that
defines true Career Readiness Education—from early-childhood education focused
on mastering the skills needed for academic success to opportunity-aligned
secondary education and a proven pathway into the workforce after graduation.
This vision for education is
incredibly empowering for students. In it, they take the same core classes as
other students, but their electives become not just what seems “fun” in the
moment, but a bridge to how they see their entire lives stretching out before
them. When they graduate, their diploma isn’t just a stamp of completion, but a
signifier of true readiness for where they’re going next.
Millions of Americans are still
stuck on the sideline of this economic expansion—they have the potential, just
not the skills. Their success will mean much more than just boosted economic
Businesses have just as much to
gain. The U.S. has a critical shortage of workers with the skills to fill
available jobs. Truly partnering with schools to close that skills gap will pay
off in both the short and long terms.
As states across the country
look to expand opportunities to take CTE classes, policymakers must recognize
that this in-classroom time is just one piece of the big-picture approach. It’s
a challenge that can’t be solved by schools alone.