The United States is at the beginning of a critical transformation of how we prepare our students for postsecondary success. In brief, the movement to reform K through 12 education will continue to miss its objective of meeting America’s workforce needs if it does not properly engage employers. Such engagement must extend far beyond “career days” and corporate philanthropy to develop programs that equip students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in college and the workplace.
Long gone are the days of the one-room schoolhouse, where a student’s education was secondary to his or her value as agrarian or domestic labor. Equally obsolete is the “tracked curriculum” classroom and its contemporary manifestation distinguished by benchmarking, state standards, and systematic testing driven by No Child Left Behind. Agrarian and industrial sensibilities – such as the “seasonal” school year calendar that we still cling to – have little relevance in the global information economy. It’s time for public-private partnerships to align education, skills, and jobs. It’s time for what I call Education 3.0.
Education 3.0 leverages the power of public-private partnerships to equip all students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and careers. Education 3.0 aligns K through 12 education with the expectations of the postsecondary and workforce worlds – providing students with more options and greater opportunities for their futures while helping to sustain our nation’s competitive edge in the global marketplace.
We need to reassess the reasons we provide public education, and redefine the key stakeholders. At the national level, stakeholders include both students and employers. Therefore, to keep the national economy growing and competitive, our schools need to give young people the skills and knowledge they’ll need to engage in economically viable activity.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are key – not just for the benefit of our economy and competitive edge, but for individual advancement as well. A new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that STEM jobs are among the nation’s fastest growing and highest paid. Despite this, a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey says that 52 percent of U.S. employers have difficulty finding employees for job openings in areas requiring training in engineering and science.
Education 3.0 public-private partnerships are moving forward to close this skills gap. The Business Roundtable’s JobSTART 101 program offers a free online course for college students and recent college graduates that introduces the professional skills necessary for entry-level employees to succeed in the workplace. At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, STEM students are provided an opportunity to work at innovative companies on campus. And in Brooklyn, New York, IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a grades 9 through 14 institution from which students earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a computer-science-related field. P-TECH graduates will be prepared for entry-level employment in the growing technology industry, and will be first in line for jobs at IBM.
Similarly, United Parcel Service (UPS) has partnered with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and the Jefferson Community & Technical College to create Metropolitan College in Louisville. Metropolitan College provides eligible Kentucky residents access to a tuition-free postsecondary education, and schedules its classes to enable UPS employees to study and sleep during the day while continuing their UPS careers at night. This public-private partnership was created to meet projected workforce and educational needs in Jefferson County, and it is serving as a model for other regions.
These are just a few of the many great public-private partnerships that are helping align education with skills and jobs, and we need more. It’s time for the next generation of educators, employers, and students to embrace Education 3.0.
Cordell Carter is Director of Public Policy at the Business Roundtable.