We tend to think about education only when school is in session. But that tendency – just like our anachronistic, agrarian school calendar itself – is an example of the out-of-date thinking that is jeopardizing America’s competitiveness on the world stage. The truth is that “school” is (and ought to be) always in session – for industry, for educators, and for the young people on whose fortunes our economy will rise or fall. A vigorous and vital society never stops learning – even if that means using innovation to reinvent its educational institutions to make them more responsive to the demands of a global economy.
IBM has written the playbook for combining high school, college, and workplace learning to connect education to jobs by providing students with the skills they need to pursue 21st Century careers. Working with our partners from government and from all levels of education – kindergarten through college – we are helping students, teachers, parents and communities understand that the mid-20th Century standards of the post World War II era – a time when people could enter the economy and pursue lifelong careers with only a high school diploma – are no longer enough.
Beyond building understanding, we have taken direct action. More than 100 IBMers have volunteered their time and expertise to mentor the students, teachers, and administrators of New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). Entering its second year as IBM enters its second century, P-TECH is achieving results that can only be realized when the public and private sectors work together to address challenges that no single entity can overcome alone. Some P-TECH students already are college-ready in key academic subjects, and will begin taking college courses as 10th graders this September. In fact, more than a dozen P-TECH students began college courses this summer after completing ninth grade.
But rolling out one school in one neighborhood – even an exemplary school – was never the final goal of this new educational paradigm. From the very start, IBM designed the P-TECH model to work in any city or community that’s ready to take action to prepare its young people for meaningful, good-paying careers, and to make its workforce attractive to growth industries. The mayor and City of Chicago get this message, and will open five new P-TECH-model schools this fall. IBM – and IBMers – will support and participate in one of the new schools, while additional corporate partners such as Motorola and Verizon will join in our fight to sustain and enhance the global competitiveness of America’s workforce.
The need to integrate academic work and career preparation has never been more urgent, but no single entity can do it alone. Now that collectively we have a proven recipe, the only remaining ingredient for positive change in our approach to education on the national level is our desire to succeed.
This post also appeared on Citizen IBM