Two weeks ago, I served as moderator for ACTE’s Workforce Development Through CTE Summit, a meeting of trade association leaders during the ACTE VISION conference. Congratulations to ACTE for having the vision to pull this together. There hasn’t been an organized industry voice in education since 2002, when the Business Coalition for Education Reform closed its doors, and the absence of that voice has been noticeable. I’m hopeful that this group of trade associations, which collectively represent thousands or even tens of thousands of businesses, can organize into a new voice, and I’m very excited that NC3T is playing some part in helping to make that happen.
One of the points I made during the introduction bears repeating here: That there is, amazingly, virtually no infrastructure in the US to connect business and education, and it’s an absence that must be addressed in some way.
In Europe, for example, there’s a great deal of infrastructure to support that connection. The formal secondary education structure incorporates career awareness, assessments, and work experiences for a large percentage of students. Corporate culture involves hosting student interns and apprentices, and the tax code even provides incentives. Additionally, there are nonprofits, research centers, and training centers that all facilitate effective practice.
In the US, we have none of that. With the exception of Career and Technical Education – which many students are never exposed to – the formal education system does not have any requirements, or even expectations, for employer engagement. Employers who want to get involved do so on their own, largely unsupported, and at their own cost. And there are few resources available on how to do any of this well.
Given the workforce challenges we face, it is more important than ever that we address these glaring oversights. And I’ll be strongly pulling for ACTE, and anyone else who wants to answer the call, to move the ball forward on this front.
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.