A Community Perspective: Aligning Business and Education

Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Aug 01, 2019

At CUED-IN, we have seen a great need for the educational and business community to work more closely together. In my many conversations with businesses and educators, I have been told that this has been an issue for more than 15 years and asked why I thought it needs to change now.  I know this has been an issue, but what has changed now is rapid technology growth, a retiring workforce, the rising cost of education, and low unemployment rates, leading to a critical need for skilled workers. Further confirmation of this need in this great commonwealth, is the initiative by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia is For Learners Innovation Network, and a new law, HB2020, signed by Governor Northam. The initiative’s goal is to promote deeper learning at all grade levels and to align instruction and assessment across the state with the expectations of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. HB2020 aims to bridge the gap between students and skilled job openings in Virginia by requiring the Virginia Community College System to provide uniform, related instruction for registered apprenticeships in high-demand programs. There has never been a better time to align business and education and it will be most successful when communities come together to make it happen at a local level.

There have been multiple approaches to achieving a better system or tool to make the connections, but nothing is more effective than when a community rallies behind a vision that brings them together in a radical way. Each community has different workforce needs.  Any approach that is taken would best be implemented at the local level – one that connects schools, businesses, organizations, and community members together in one user-friendly system. Currently, there are only limited connections within communities. Perhaps a parent is able to land their child a job because of his connection to a local employer, or a student is able to find a job at a fast-food restaurant because of a friend’s referral.  Our goal is to provide all career seekers the same opportunities to make those connections in order to find a living wage job. We want to keep career seekers within the local community and help them find their best-fit job.

Megan Healy, Virginia’s chief workforce development advisor, believes that career exploration should begin in middle school. There is great value in enabling students at this age to explore local careers, and some businesses have expressed interest in providing career-related learning opportunities to this age group. The majority of young kids learn best with their hands and eyes. We want to give them opportunities to actively engage in local career opportunities and learning and pique their interest at an earlier age. We also want to encourage better discussions regarding career interests between parents and their children. By providing career-related information at an earlier age, parents can play an important role in helping their child make key decisions that equip them for a successful future, and parents benefit by seeing the value of their child’s career choice – one that is rewarding and provides a livable wage.
With education and business needing to be better aligned, CUED-In provides the best tool to make those connections.  I have the privilege of participating as a panelist at the Strategies Xchange conference on September 16, 17. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear how CUED-In is collaborating with local community leaders to foster academic and workforce success by providing a cutting edge web and app-based platform where educators and businesses can seamlessly connect. Our innovative system helps strengthen the local economy by providing resources that help career seekers discover their potential and equips them for careers within their local community, enabling educators to teach to the future workforce, and empowering employers to easily find the right local talent. We are career-focused and community-connected!