High school students in today’s world are a new and unique breed. They come from a world where advanced technology always existed and where most have never even seen a chalkboard. Students today can instantly access information on their smart phone and communicate without ever speaking a word. In classrooms where a laptop or iPad isn’t available, that smart phone becomes the default. They have been born into a generation where immediate gratification is an expectation. On the opposite side of the spectrum, most cooperate leaders from my generation, grew up in an environment where information was accessed in the World Book Encyclopedia. Yes, I can still remember the set my parents had in our home and even the guy that came around each year selling them door-to-door. We communicated with our friends by clandestinely passing notes in class while our teachers showed film on a 16 mm projector. My point here is that the perception of teaching and learning for a lot of people outside of education is based on their own experiences. People who went to school in the eighties and are now leading major corporations and businesses can find it difficult to relate to this new “I want it now” generation. I completely understand, and I am an educator. However, understanding is one thing, hiring someone with that type of mindset to a position of responsibility can be quite different.
This makes building sustainable partnerships with the business community increasingly vital to the success of today’s students. Business partners can make a significant impact on student learning in more ways than anyone ever imagined. It is happening throughout the country on a large scale. Schools like Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati, OH, offer real-world experience provided through Taft’s strong partnerships with Cincinnati Bell, where students have access to cutting-edge technology. In Anchorage, AK, the Anchorage School District’s School Business Partnership Department connects more than 600 schools and business partners with a goal to foster positive working relationships with businesses; assist in employability and work force development; build bridges of understanding between educational institution and the community leading to better citizens and employees. And, here locally in a district in Manor, Texas, Samsung Austin Semiconductor engineers volunteer once a week mentoring students using a STEM focused approach. Samsung, the largest single chip manufacturing plant in North America, does more than just provide mentoring; they provide additional funding through grants to the district for sustainable initiatives. In Austin, TX, the Austin Chamber of Commerce leads regional efforts to track K-12 school district performance and increase the number of students ready for and enrolled in higher education. They have brought together 15 school districts and 10 institutions of higher education and along with the area’s workforce, have developed a regional initiative where everyone is working together to ensure that employers have the talent they need to power their company’s growth.
The Chamber does an incredible job in working with area school districts and area businesses to align stakeholders and keep them focused on this all too important mission.
It is crucial to do your research before embarking on initiating a partnership between a school and a business. Taking the time to work through the bureaucratic details, developing a comprehensive plan, and communicating clearly each stakeholders expectations in the partnership are critical to its success. I have seen first hand how impactful even a small partnership can have on a school or even an entire district. I believe that developing strong partnerships with area businesses is a key factor in helping close the poverty gap throughout the country. It is really about collaboration on a much grander scale. Businesses will certainly benefit from investing in the future and in the end, if done the right way, the community and most importantly, the students, are the true benefactors.
Check out this comprehensive report on the importance of education-business partnerships: