As a newcomer to the valley, I have been spending a great deal of time in the community, attending meetings, connecting with influencers, and listening to local leaders. It’s been invigorating! I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know people and understand the area. I’ve been encouraged by the vitality of our community.
One recent meeting with local educators was particularly invigorating. The people were bright and welcoming. And the conversation reminded me of the vital relationship between business and education.
We began with introductions. One participant was head of school at a private academy. Two were K-12 school district leaders. An education foundation leader attended. And a number of universities were represented.
With all of the colleges in attendance, I wondered how the conversation would go. When you put that many potential competitors in one room, there’s always a chance for individual agendas to get in the way of the greater good. But my concern quickly diminished as I heard these colleagues talk about the needs of the community, how they hope to help, and that we can accomplish more if we work together. We even began sharing the programs that each school offered so we could direct students we could not serve to local options.
The room came alive when one of the district representatives shared about his passion for career and technical education. We discussed its value for many students. We shared stories about students who had learned through the type of hands-on experience that career and technical education provides. We discussed the essential role businesses play in helping to educate these students.
The last point about the vital role of businesses occupied us for sometime. It was noted that state mandates had not been helpful of late, and that businesses needed to gain a vision for these programs.
Of course, the question was asked, why don’t businesses do more to partner with high schools for career education? The district leaders told us that a few businesses expressed interest, but that often something as simple as completing the paperwork became an obstacle. None of us were surprised by this observation, but one participant responded by emphasizing how shortsighted the decision not to partner with high schools for career and technical education was.
“I brought high school students to work in a business I owned years ago with a similar program. Sure, there are obstacles, and even then there was a lot of paperwork. But the students that worked for me did very well. In fact, all totaled, the students I hired through that program stayed with my business for forty years or more.”
Her words have been on my mind since that meeting. What an outstanding example of the symbiosis between education and business! It filled me with hope and made me consider what I can do in the valley to help bring business and education together. For the good of our students. For the good of our community.
When business and education work together, everyone benefits.