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Book Review: Facing the Future Together - Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships by Jim Leatherwood

Aug 9, 2008
This is a book that has been long overdue in being written.

It is my opinion that the educational system is facing greater challenges today than it ever has before. As a consequence there are shots fired at it, while some of those shots are not justified, many others are.

For many years I have felt that there has been a disconnect between the educational system and the business community. Over the 30 plus years of my career I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in many disparate industries, from Atomic Energy Research to Yacht Racing (try as I might I can't think of a 'Z') and just about every letter in between. In each of these industries I have heard the same comment.

What's wrong with our education system? We get kids straight out of school or college, and they know nothing.

That is a harsh criticism, and not one that should be taken literally. What the commenter really means is that the newly graduated student offers no instant payback, no instant return on investment. As a result a great deal of time and effort must be expended to make the person productive within the company. How do we fix this problem? It would impossible to teach a class on every industry and every function within that industry!

Author Jim Leatherwood may have a solution, "let's build partnerships with industry," he says. As he explains, the traditional school to industry relationship has been a very one sided affair, an affair that involves the flow of money from the business to the school in order to support some school activity. The Football team needs new uniforms, the Gym needs new equipment, the Library needs new books, etc, etc. This tactic gets old.

What is needed is a way that benefits both partners. How can this be done?

Facing The Future Together gives us the blueprint, by partnering, both sides have huge gains, and no downsides.

Make no mistake, there are costs associated, but they tend to be soft costs. Instead of a company sending a $1000 check to buy new uniforms for the Football team, that $1000 is a soft cost that comes from time spent by employees, maybe mentoring students, or doing a 'show and tell' about their job, or even being a 'guest' teacher for a class about how this aspect of math, science, english, relates to a real life situation. The relevancy to real life can not be stressed enough. I slogged through the boring math problems of how long a bath tub would take to fill if the plug was left out, which while is an interesting exploration into the application of math theory, has no relevance to the real world. Just think how much more fun it would have been to have a guest teacher from the local water authority talking about supply and demand for water? How they have to have enough 'on tap' to meet requirements, but not too much.

What does the company get in return for their largesse? Well at the most fundamental level, kids have parents, and parents buy stuff. If the kids are enthusiastic about a product, the chances are the parent will follow along. Longer term, by offering internships, you have a ready made supply of new workers, most importantly, workers who know your industry and can be productive from day one. There are side benefits as well, in the eyes of the community you are a good corporate citizen, you are seen to care.

This is no 'pie in the sky' idea, this is real life, if you look at today's large corporations, Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc, this is the way they work. You give to get.

Facing The Future Together should be on every educators 'to read' list. In fact it should be on every businessman's list as well. There are no downsides to this partnership. The school gains credibility, the company gains recognition and a ready supply of workers, and the students get an opportunity to explore life after school. Jim Leatherwood has not written a 'pie in the sky' book, he has written a framework that can be applied to any school, and any industry.

You can get your copy of Facing The Future Together from Amazon.

(Originally published at Blogger News Network and reprinted with permission from the author, Simon Barrett).
About the Author
Simon Barrett is an adult educator in Calgary, Alberta. With the 11 months a year of winter, he reads a lot of books! He is also a contributing editor for Blogger News and maintains a personal blog at Simon B.
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