Education Week - March 25, 2015 - (Page 12)

Nonprofits Link Businesses To Career-Tech Programs By Caralee J. Adams When it comes to collaborating to shape career and technical education programs in schools, educators and businesses don't always speak the same language. To fill that need, a growing number of third-party entities have formed to bridge such communication gaps in their own communities. In Philadelphia, for example, the nonprofit Academies Inc. enlists local businesses to help implement the career-academy model in schools, said Constance Majka, the organization's director of innovation and learning. "Good intentions don't always translate into an effective outcome," she said. Having Academies Inc. as a single point of contact for employers helps them form lasting partnerships with schools and avoid repeating mistakes, she added. By providing orientation for both sides, businesses learn they shouldn't show a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation to children, and teachers learn how to support business partners in the classroom, said Ms. Majka. The structure also keeps teachers from relying on the same businesses or business partners over and over again for classroom collaboration. "Educators are probably the worst communicators to business, trying to explain to [businesses] what we are doing and what we want to do," said David M. Kipphut, the deputy of career and technical education for the Philadelphia school district. Trainers from Academies Inc. have taught Mr. Kipphut to understand the mindset of businesses, and to be more focused and clear. Since expectations can differ, there can be trust issues initially in forming partnerships. "When we connect students with a job opportunity, we want the student to learn and be productive," he said. For example, a student in a health program working in a hospital should not be shredding paper in a records office. Developing a learning plan that outlines the competencies a student is expected to gain-and that is signed by the employer- can help avoid that pitfall, he said. Staying Committed Academies Inc. matched Nelson J. Shaffer, an official with a local engineering company, with Abraham Lincoln High School in North Philadelphia, where he provides executive coaching for the principal and mentoring to students. Mr. Shaffer, the executive vice president of the Pennoni Associates engineering firm, puts in about 10 hours a month at the school and said he is committed to volunteering for the long haul. "The business community needs to be involved in the education system," he said. "It's one thing to contribute money, but money isn't going to cure the disconnect." Sometimes employers are asked for their expertise, but when plans and priorities change, the projects never get off the ground, according to Academies Inc. For example, a few years ago an automotive advisory committee in Philadelphia met for months making recommendations for a new diesel mechanics program only to have the school reform commission grant control of the school to a charter management company and not adopt the program, according to Albert J. McLaverty, the organization's associate director of industry organizing. Staff members at Academies Inc. tried to assure committee members that their work was appreciated and steered them to another project. Mr. McLaverty said the long-term nature of the volunteer commitments allows the agency to encourage continued participation despite setbacks. Through Academies Inc., Frank C. Fesnak has arranged for local business owners to come into the Roxsborough High School classroom in North Philadelphia, where he teaches a business and technology course. "It's fascinating to [students] to have somebody real explain what it's like to run a business every day," he said. His students practice networking with employers, giving their "elevator speeches" and handing out personally designed business cards. "It forces students to think about themselves and the skills they bring to the market," he said. The COLLEGE BOUND blog tracks news and trends on this issue. Employers' Roles Grow In New CTE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 those programs. Such efforts also come as the Common Core State Standards have made "college and career readiness" the touchstone for K-12 education. Last year, 46 states and the District of Columbia took action to boost career technical education with nearly 150 new policies to provide more funding, expand innovative employer partnerships, and strengthen programs that provide college-level credit in high school. And the call for greater employer engagement in schools' career and technical education programs has been sounded in recent reports from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. "Education can't do it alone anymore," said Kimberly A. Green, the executive director of the Silver Spring, Md.-based cte directors consortium. As students in the new economy need a different skills set, employer feedback is paramount-and not just through the old model of an advisory committee that meets once or twice a year. "It requires more interaction, more regular connection, more guidance to stay abreast of workforce change," she said. Cultural Divide Facing shortages of skilled workers, many businesses are eager for schools to produce more highly educated graduates. "The education system always lags behind the labor economy in terms of the jobs created," said Edward E. Gordon, the author of Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, published in 2013 by Praeger Publishing. "The problem now is that the changes are occurring so fast that the school system is being left behind in the dust." But it can be a challenge for businesses to know how to connect with schools. Part of the difficulty is that educators and employers operate in different cultures. Business people are often used to moving quickly and efficiently, while educators live within the constraints of bureaucracy and 12 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 25, 2015 | regulations. The divergent cultures can clash, according to those who manage such partnerships. To bridge the divide, some districts are enlisting third parties to coordinate collaboration and funnel job information from the business community to schools. (See related article, this page.) One such model, known as a Regional Talent Innovation Network, or retain, brings together businesses from various sectors through an economic-development association or chamber of commerce to work with schools as they develop career-training programs. Begun in the 1990s, the retain movement is gradually gaining momentum, according to Mr. Gordon. Although there is no formal retain organization to track the model, the Purdue University Center for Regional Development lists 1,400 such networks and similar public-private partnerships in its database. Businesses, once reluctant to share job projections for proprietary reasons, are increasingly open to collaboration and sharing, and employment outlooks are also available on websites, such as Career Outlook in the U.S., which uses U.S. Department of Labor data. Schools also have their own set of challenges in retooling programs and doing it with business involvement. "Educators have many different types of requirements they have to meet these days from the federal government, the state government, and the local government. That's part of the challenge to try to get everything in," said Stephen DeWitt, the deputy executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education, in Alexandria, Va. While some members know how to reach out effectively to employers, others do not, and the problem grows as large numbers of cte teachers leave the field, he added. Every January, employers in Vermilion County in eastern Illinois are asked to complete a jobs-projection survey, administered by Vermilion Advantage, a member-based organization that focuses on workforcedevelopment needs. Core employers identify their needs two years out for both new and replacement positions. Acting on Data Using the data, skills training in the schools can be adapted to plug the gaps, said Vicki L. Haugen, the president and chief executive officer of Vermilion Advantage. As a result, the organization has pushed for more training and career-aware" Education can't do it alone anymore. ... It requires more interaction, more regular connection, more guidance to stay abreast of workforce change." KIMBERLY A. GREEN National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium Photos by Charles Mostoller for Education Week

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 25, 2015

Education Week - March 25, 2015
Civics Tests for Diplomas Gain Traction
For Education Next, Views With An Edge
Employers Integral To Career Studies
Experience Seen as Boost For Teachers
Elite Private Schools Tackle Ed Tech
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Eligibility Rules Fuel Growth Of Indiana’s Voucher Program
States Should Play Role in Fostering Engagement, Report Says
Teacher-Leadership Movement Gets Boost From Ed. Dept.
Blogs of the Week
Nonprofits Link Businesses To Career-Tech Programs
At Beaver Country Day, Investing In Innovation
Special Education Task Force Urges Overhaul for California
Gov. Cuomo’s Budget Sparks Backlash in N.Y.
Fight Looms on Kansas Plan To Fund K-12 Via Block Grants
Blogs of the Week
Why School Policies Need to Be Fine-Tuned
Which ‘Common Core’ Are We Talking About?
What Will Be the Impact of the Assessments?
More Educator Voices on Common-Core Implementation
Overcoming ‘Initiative Fatigue’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Breaking the Code of the Common Core

Education Week - March 25, 2015