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Should Public Education be Driven by Business?

Education on the Edge

· Leadership

The public school system and business both face a serious educational crisis within their four walls, But public education is NOT is a tool to further the national corporate agenda. Nor is business the solution to the crisis in public education.

Who's responsible for what?

Business managers say that education is vital for business to grow and perform competitively, but how much are they investing to train the workers that need it the most and directly affect the bottom line? And are they investing strategically?

The responsibility of business is to better tend to its business by addressing its hidden skills deficits. Providing high-quality, innovative goods and services to demanding customers requires actively developing their workers’ skills through on-the-job and continuing education. Instead of just talking about the need for better worker skills and deploring the perceived weaknesses of public education, businesses need to put their money where their mouth is by spending more corporate dollars on formal training programs for frontline workers, instead of expecting the public schools system to take that burden on and sashaying to government.


MIA: Visionary Leadership


Nearly 30 years ago, the National Center on Education and the Economy published a report on the skills of the American workforce that already presaged a skills crisis, not because of a failure in public schooling but rather because businesses at that time “did not expect their skills requirements to change. “Despite the widespread presumption that advancing technology and the evolving service economy [would] create jobs demanding higher skills, only five percent of employers”, mainly large manufacturers, financial service organizations and communications companies, were concerned about a skills shortage. What a patent lack of visionary leadership!


Today the labor shortage in the U.S. is reaching a critical point. Unemployment in the U.S. is at its lowest rate since 2000, yet there are a record 6.7 million job openings. And nearly 60% of employers struggle to fill job vacancies. It is estimated that by 2030, the global talent shortage could reach 85.2 million people—costing companies trillions of dollars in lost economic opportunity.


What’s more, the report states that “More than 70 percent of the jobs in America will not require a college education by the year 2000. These jobs are the backbone of our economy, and the productivity of these workers will make or break our economic future.” At the same time, it points out that America “may have the worst school-to-work transition system of any advanced industrial country”. The Executive Summary concludes by saying: “Our approaches have served us well in the past. They will not serve us well in the future.”


Who's at fault?


Is this the public education system’s fault?! Is it the fault of teachers? No! It is the result of a failure in both educational and business leadership.


Public schools are not responsible for providing remedial skills education for business needs. The responsibility of basic K-12 education is to provide a rich and well-rounded education for all students, with the reading, math, and communications skills required to work effectively as part of a team, operate sophisticated machinery, solve problems, think critically, or take initiative in behalf of their customers.


Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, Upboost LLC

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