Businesses are teaming up with educators to prepare students for the workforce.
In the United States, educational attainment for individuals between 25 and 29 years old with diplomas at all levels—from high school diplomas to master's degrees—increased between 2000 and 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, a 2017 survey from U.S. Bank reports that this has done little for businesses, with 61 percent of small business owners experiencing extreme or moderate difficulty in finding quality employees.
Perhaps due to this dynamic, some organizations are joining forces with educators to develop the people skills students need in the professional world. According to Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, a 2017 report from AVID and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Center for Education and Workforce, businesses can find significant value in collaborating with schools and school systems.
"These partnerships can take many forms," says Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Indeed, the report highlights how several marquee organizations—including Nike, EY, and Wegmans—have used different offerings, from provision of classroom solutions to mentoring for college- and career-readiness programs, to support educators and students.
When it comes to outcomes, Oldham stresses that businesses should keep a long-term focus. While she has seen some companies, such as Wegmans (which operates a work-based learning program that has been reducing its employee turnover rate since 1987), gain tangible, direct results from these programs, most of the time she sees businesses benefit from improving their communities' talent pools. "In addition to projecting a positive image of your organization, this will create an employment brand that attracts the best workers in your area," she explains.
Of course, getting started can be intimidating. But Sandy Husk, CEO of the training organization AVID and a former school superintendent, notes that partnering with a school or school system can be easier than it seems. "Most superintendents have a relationship with their local chamber of commerce, so that's a good place to get started," she says. Examples of business-education partnerships include work-based learning programs, classroom solutions, mentoring for college and career readiness, adopt-a-school, and coalition building.