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It's Time For Education - Business Partnerships

May 25, 2008
Paul is a successful businessman who feels that he has a solution for the problems that face education.

"If education was run more like a business," he says "we'd be far better off." Many of Paul's colleagues in business agree with him.

Estelle is a school principal and is tired of hearing business people make negative comments about education.

"They should mind their own business and stop criticizing the schools," she says shaking her head. Most of her teachers share the same opinion.

These words and the feelings they express indicate a lack of real understanding between the worlds of business and education. Such negative attitudes only serve to create further division and misunderstanding between two potential partners.

Education is not a business. It faces some unique issues and problems that are often unrealized by the business community. However, business has a major stake in the product that comes from our schools. In an era of rapidly changing technology, reducing the cost of training new workers is a great incentive for business to collaborate with education. Education is the business of business and the entire community.

It has been said that education is a "journey," not a destination. Indeed, there is always more to learn. That journey becomes "first-class" when business joins hands with education. The formation of effective school-business partnerships is the way to bridge any gap that may exist between these two worlds. A successful design for constructing such a bridge is the purpose of this book (Facing the Future Together).

Some alarming trends make a strong case for collaboration and partnership. Currently in the United States approximately one-quarter of each high school class fails to graduate each year. Of those who do only about one-third go on to a four-year college and complete a B.A. degree. While most of these young people do well, the other two-thirds will have a much more difficult time facing the demands of the workplace.

These trends represent a tremendous source of frustration and waste for these young people, and just as much a source of waste and lost potential for the nation. Why is this happening? First, there is no institution that has established as its mission helping young people to make the transition from high school to the work place. High Schools care about their students until they leave. Employers care if the new employee has needed skills and can contribute to their success. But no one helps young people get from point A to point B.

This is also a time of great change for young people. They enter high school having had everything in their lives planned for them. They leave high school and are on their own. At a time when they're dealing with a host of issues related to growing up, they are expected to plan their future with almost no experience in this arena and no organized system to help them.

Who will inherit these youth? By and large employers. Even those who go to college for four years will spend the next 30 to 40 years working. Those who don't go to college will begin working directly after leaving high school. Is it in the interests of high schools to learn what employers want and need in hiring new employees? If they care about the future of their students, yes. Is it in the interest of employers to learn what schools want and need? If they want young people to successfully make the transition and become productive employees, yes.

There are huge payoffs for schools and employers working together. And while there is no organized system to make this happen, this book offers examples of proven methods of bridging the transition gap for students of all ages through school-business partnerships.

Examples of successful partnerships can be found among the pages of Facing the Future Together. However, there are thousands of large and small businesses and thousands of schools still without partners. Upon the completion of this book - educators, CEOs and business managers will understand the concepts and mutual benefits of school-business partnerships. Instead of the antagonism between Paul and Estelle described at the beginning of this article, representatives from both business and education will have the expertise to approach one another with this information and face the challenges of the 21st century together.

(An excerpt from the book Facing the Future Together: Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships and reprinted with permission of the author, Jim Leatherwood)
About the Author
Jim Leatherwood is the author of Facing the Future Together: Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships. Website: Successful School Business; E-mail: thebrookepress@aol.com.
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