Our current education system has changed little since the industrial revolution in America.
The system as it exists was designed to meet the needs of a society that existed over 100 years ago. Designed by business leaders to meet the needs of the new booming factory town times in America, schools were built to meet the needs of those local factories and therefore were designed to function as factories. Students attended school for 6 hours per day for 180 days and attended classes one after another very much in silos. Businesses needed more workers and children could be trained to work in mills and on assembly lines. This innovative response to a new industrial time in our nation’s history worked well for its time. It built an economy and a nation of workers with the skills needed for the jobs that needed to be filled. Businessmen saw the education system to be a brilliant solution to the needs of their businesses, and it was – over a century ago.
We live in new times and our workforce, innovative landscape and global economy demand a new and modern approach to preparing students for today’s careers.
The gap between the American education system and the society and economy our students graduate into has widened. With limited resources, schools have been unable to keep up with the demand to graduate students prepared for work in career fields that have emerged in recent decades, such as green jobs, high tech, biotech, big data and more. And the growing need for innovation and entrepreneurial solutions demands students who have been encouraged to think creatively and believe in their ideas. The lack of preparation for our young people to be the skilled workers, problem solvers and leaders the economy demands is further reinforcing an economic condition in our nation where unemployment remains high and millions of jobs go unfilled.
54% of young college grads are unemployed or underemployed
There are 3.4 million vacant jobsSource:”Half of Recent College Grads Underemployed or Jobless, Analysis Says,” Cleveland.com 23 April 2012
The stakeholders in this ever worsening scenario encompass each and every member of our society. When we look at the landscape, we see parents, students, employers, businesses and local governments asking for better solutions. Businesses need more skilled workers and a deeper pool of young people prepared for new and innovative projects. Students need more options, more experiences that expose them to a variety of careers so they can make informed decisions about college, career paths and futures. Communities need businesses to stay and hire locally. Local governments want greater collaboration within their cities and towns.
The problem is a lack of resources, innovative and cutting edge learning opportunities in schools and a disconnection from the business and employer community – not for a lack of want, but from a lack of resources to focus on new solutions and a lack of expertise about how to make it happen. The problem however is not school or education-system created just as it is not the fault of any one player in our landscape. Our global community has advanced so quickly that new solutions have been needed but haven’t developed to keep up with demand. New solutions, a bold willingness to take risks and step outside of the box and the input and engagement from local innovators is necessary. Risk and creativity are par for the course for entrepreneurs so we need to trust and rely on their instincts when our schools are willing to consider options. When it comes to bridging the gap between schools and industry, former Massachusetts education secretary Paul Reville said in a talk in late 2013 that “the change will come entrepreneurs and innovators working with schools to help build solutions” (November 25, 2013).
I couldn’t agree more. Let’s do this. We need us to!