A Pivotal Point for Opportunity in Education
Earlier this month, the world was captivated by the story of Geoffrey Owens – an actor famous for his 80’s TV roles who made national news when he was photographed bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s. After a series of articles highlighted his fall from stardom, Owens took advantage of the media spotlight to change the narrative. In an interview with Good Morning America, Owens said he hoped his story would serve as a reminder “of the honor of the working person” and that “every job is worthwhile and valuable.”
My grandfather often said, “all work that’s honest work is good work,” and many of us grew up hearing similar expressions celebrating the importance and dignity of working. However, I think Owens’ message resonated so widely because our nation is in the midst of a major economic shift that’s transforming the future of employment and job creation in real time.
Recognizing this trend – and the fact that the majority of high-demand jobs are being created in skilled trades like construction, health care, and advanced manufacturing – our next generation’s future will depend on realigning our public education system with the demands of the global economy.
Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all model where success is defined by earning a liberal arts degree, we must accurately adjust our educational curriculum to provide more choices and options for students.
Over the past 10 years, the state of Georgia has aggressively invested in linking public education with the needs of industry by creating a statewide network of 46 College and Career Academies, while significantly expanding dual enrollment, industry apprenticeships, and post-secondary opportunities for high school students. Partnering with technical colleges, universities, and local businesses, College and Career Academies offer students access to college courses and pathway programs. These opportunities allow students to obtain industry credentials for quality, in-demand jobs that meet the needs of each community’s workforce.
The Georgia Chamber, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the U.S. Chamber Foundation have proven their commitment to investing in our students through these initiatives – and further integrating business leaders into our public schools will only increase each community’s economic potential.
Last year, we also launched a statewide partnership with YouScience to offer all middle and high school students access to an extremely innovative aptitude-based career guidance program. YouScience utilizes proven algorithms to generate personalized results, guiding students to make more informed post-secondary and career choices. Beyond simply preparing our students with the skills and training to be successful in high-demand careers, this program allows each school’s faculty to engage students in making proactive choices that will maximize the value of their education.
Education drives the economy.
When our public schools are aligned with industry needs, they are fully capable of building a workforce second to none. Because of our statewide initiatives, we’ve lifted our state’s graduation rate more than 22 percentage points, created 700,000 new jobs, and Georgia’s economy now leads the Southeast in GDP growth.
More importantly, we’re graduating thousands of high school students each year with associate degrees, industry certifications, and employment experience in skilled professions.
Our nation is at a pivotal point in which we will have the opportunity to fuel unprecedented growth, innovation, and prosperity that addresses the greatest challenges facing our communities. However, to take full advantage of this moment in history, it’s vital that industry and business step forward as partners in our public schools to meet the evolving needs of the 21st century economy.
Moreover, it’s just as critical for our public schools to respect the value of responding to the needs of industry. When we meet this challenge, our success will unleash a new wave of economic prosperity that leaves no one behind.