20 November 2009

A new push for a better workforce

I was invited to join what organizers called a Career Pathways/STEM Educator-Employer Summit Nov. 11 at the BAE Systems facility in West Manchester Township. That's a fancy way of saying more than two dozen representatives from county schools and employers met to brainstorm ways to improve the way students are prepared for York County jobs in a 21st-century economy. The emphasis here was on finding ways to improve math and science skills for students across the county, specifically with an eye on future high-tech manufacturing jobs. Participants also wanted to develop new ways for schools and local employers to interact.

These were the questions posed by organizers Glenn Caufman and Rob McIlvaine:
1. For educators, what's the school's role in preparing students for the new economy, and what barriers do you face?
2. For employers, what are your expectations of graduates entering the workforce, and what role should employers play in helping schools shape curricula to meet those expectations?
3. For educators, how would partnerships between schools and employers enhance student performance?
4. For employers, is it in your self interest to develop relationships with local schools?
5. For both groups, what should a collaborative partnership between schools and businesses look like and what are some current best practices in the school-to-work arena?

Caufman, director of the York County Alliance for Learning, and Rob McIlvaine, from Mantec, sent out a recap of the brainstorming session, and there were dozens of ideas generated by the questions. The challenge now will be to turn all the ideas into a workable plan.

YorkCounts supports this effort. Developing better connections between employers and workers was a Metro-York recommendation in 2007, and that task has been taken up initially by the York County Economic Development Corp., which developed its Office of Workforce Development. EDC President Darrell Auterson provided the welcome at the summit, a sign that this new effort will tie into the work that Auterson's group is doing.

Lots of York County students still view college as their first option after graduating. But for those that don't, how well are schools doing to prepare kids for the quality jobs that exist right here? What could schools and employers be doing differently to reduce brain drain?

- Dan Fink


LJ said...

The push for a better workforce should begin long before high school. Students' learning habits start to gel in early elementary school. USFIRST.org (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has programs for K-3/JrFLL, 4-8/FLL, and two programs for 9-12 (FTC and FRC) using robotics as the hook to gain students' interest. York County 4-H has started a Robotics Club, initially based on FLL (FIRST LEGO League).

YorkCounts said...

I agree with you about student learning. Good reads on those links. The United Way, in addition to its work for the Stay in School Report, also led the push to develop Focus on our Future. That program aims to enhance the quality of early childhood education so that kids are better prepared when they start school. And it's working: Compared to 15 years ago, there are more accredited child care centers in York County and more teachers with advanced training.