Business and industry are missing players in education reform.
In my last position leading statewide campaigns to pass education reform legislation in CA, OH, TN, and Louisiana, one of the biggest tasks was establishing working coalition tables. The business sector represented often by the chamber of commerce was always a sought after partner because of their ability to influence others to think about how we are preparing our future workforce, their political capital within the state house and the relationships they possess. While helping pass bill legislation is important equally as important as the business sector’s role in leveraging its position and capital to establish workforce training programs, internships and summer opportunities.
Here is what we do know: 18 out of 100 youth ages 16-24 in New Orleans are not in school and are not working. When you ask educators in the city about summer youth programs, internships or job opportunities they all say, “Have you tried Cafe Reconcile?” While Cafe Reconcile is an amazing youth-focused workforce development training program, it only serves a limited amount of participants and is focused in the service sector. New Orleans needs a more robust set of programs that provide work-based learning opportunities in healthcare, construction, engineering, transportation/logistics, entrepreneurship, software and tech, and a broader range of service sectors. How can we begin to assemble players within these industries to forge formal partnerships with schools, community colleges, trade and professional associations, community-based organizations, and local companies?
Ed reformers: we can lead by expanding our relationships with the business sector and creating partnerships for our students to apply what they have learned in the classroom. Moreover we can organize and hold locally-based corporations accountable for providing opportunities to our students and young people in the community. Our kids unfortunately don’t have access to opportunities that expose them to experiences that shape and inform their career goals.
Having a high quality summer job or internship can change the trajectory of their life. These summer opportunities normalize stewardship, curiosity, rigor and structure all things we teach and we know determine success in the classroom. Other ways businesses can play a larger role in education reform is by charging their corporate social responsibility office to write checks to social enterprises that focus on youth entrepreneurship, support them with skills building, relationships and seed money and develop your internal capacity to provide quality internships to students in the city.
This has to be a part of our Next 10.