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The Role Of American Business In Education

May 31, 2008
If we accept the premise that education is a lifetime process then well structured, sustainable business-education partnerships become essential. The average American student attends school for 12 to 14 years. Most of these young people will enter a career in business or industry that will last 30 to 40 years. However, there is almost no communication between the education and business communities during the years of learning and training. The result is that most of the students exiting American schools are unprepared for successful employment.

Bridging this communication gap through business-education partnerships can lead to a successful experience for everyone involved. At an early age students will develop skills, learn to adjust to the demands of the workplace and become better future employees. Men or women in business will derive both personal and financial satisfaction by developing a close relationship with educators. The benefits of partnership are detailed in Facing the Future Together, a book that focuses directly on how-to construct a successful business-education partnership and the mutual benefits that result from this collaboration.

A business person reading this article might have some of the following questions and concerns:

Q. "How would I even begin to navigate the bureaucratic halls of education and get involved?"

A. Actually it's not that difficult. Education works very much like business. Make your initial contact with a decision-maker. Consult Facing the Future Together if you need assistance in developing a plan of partnership. Schedule a meeting with a local school district superintendent. Explain your desire to establish a business-education partnership. After obtaining the superintendent's support, select a school. Ask for an introduction to the school principal. Like business, when you have the support of the education CEO things will happen and you are well on your way to a successful partnership.

Q. "How much money is this going to cost me?"

A. A successful partnership is not about money. The real value of this partnership is the people-to-people relationships it engenders not in the amount of money that changes hands.

Q. I'm not a teacher. I run a business. So what can I offer as a partner for a school?

A. You have a great deal to offer and to gain from this partnership. You and your employees can act as mentors, tutors, career day speakers, demonstrate the latest technology in your business and show how it applies to math, science or English curriculum. You can host field-study trips for students, give them an opportunity to volunteer at your business site or create student internships. Activities like these can motivate and inspire students to perform at higher levels in school in preparation for entering a career.

Traditionally, it is the educator who makes the first move toward partnership. But as we have discussed, this need not be the case. Everyone wins when business-education partnerships are formed.

"Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon."

-Winston Churchill


As described in the quote from Sir Winston, business in America is an influential and sturdy horse. For most Americans our economic and social well-being is tied closely to the experience of business. We feel more secure when consumer spending and the stock market show growth and unemployment figures are in decline. When business and education are harnessed together in partnership the delivery system for education becomes more efficient and relevant.

Facing the Future Together is written for the business person as well as the educator. Educators are often criticized for having little or no contact with the outside "real" world. Criticism of education by the business community, the media and politicians has often led educators to isolate themselves. But teachers, counselors and administrators should never work in isolation. Students will benefit far more from support derived from partnership with the business community than from criticism by those who may be their future employers.
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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