We hear too often from business and industry that public education of today is not adequately preparing our young people for the demands and rigor of the 21st century global workforce. And sadly this is also true: We don’t get another chance to get it right for this generation.
But I have hope because our energetic team in the Office of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (those in the know just call it CTAE) strive to set things right for our kids now. As a great example of their efforts, they held an incredible Workforce Development Symposium at Georgia Power yesterday, in which nearly 200 educators and industry officials came together to discuss partnerships and ways to get involved in preparing students for careers in STEM-related industries and other high demand occupations.
I could fully explain our CTAE, but our students produced this fantastic video. So please click here for an in-depth look at our program.
Anyone who has followed the Atlanta Public Schools and me for the past year should know about our mission to create a culture that prepares every student for college and career.
We’ve made great strides on the college readiness part, especially through great partnerships with Georgia Tech and Achieve Atlanta. With Georgia Tech, we have mentorships and internship programs and a pledge through GT Scholars to provide full-ride scholarships for our valedictorians and salutatorians. Achieve Atlanta has created a solid plan to address the academic, social and financial needs of our students to increase the number students graduating from college by 20% percent by the year 2025.
But the mission is twofold, and I am dedicated to seeing a comparable kind of lift for career preparedness for our students.
Speaking with industry leaders in construction and insurance, confirmed for me that our nation is experiencing a major opportunity gap. Although job opportunities in those and many other fields are expanding, our schools are not graduating enough students with the kinds of skills and experiences who can earn these rich and rewarding jobs.
This is of nationwide concern.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is a shortage of qualified skilled and professional workers in the United States today. If nothing changes, by 2020, the shortage will be even greater especially in fields that require proficiency in math, science and technology.
Earlier this month, the state announced the launch of Educating Georgia’s Future Workforce, an initiative aimed at increasing the state’s focus on career education. This effort really resets and redefines what workforce development means in the context of our public schools.
We take it as an additional charge to do more.
That’s why our CTAE folks held the symposium: to strengthen public/private partnerships to address the workforce talent shortage in metro Atlanta and the state.
That’s why we are committed to hiring only the most talented and effective teachers in CTAE for our students.
That’s why we are developing a College Career Academy – an actual bricks-and-mortar destination focused on CTAE – in partnership with Atlanta Technical College. Proposed for school year 2016-2017, the Academy will provide our students with robust options of technical and core academic courses so they can earn high school and college credit, complete a CTAE pathway and possibly earn a Technical Certificate of Completion (TCC), diploma or an associate degree.
Truly, the benefits of the Academy will build a skilled workforce, serve as another educational entity in the Atlanta community, where students may earn an industry-recognized credential and create a pipeline of potential employers for Atlanta and Georgia’s workforce.
But we cannot do it alone.
That’s why I issued a call to action to business and industry to find ways to participate and contribute:
- Be part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Workforce Development Council or serve on a CTAE advisory board
- Engage directly with a high school to provide tutoring, mentorships or internships
- Create externship experiences for our teachers
- Assist or join the implementation committee for the College and Career Academy with Atlanta Technical College
- Create on-site, for-credit work programs for our students such as the amazing 12 for Life program developed by Southwire Inc. in Carrollton, Georgia. Check it out at 12forlife.com. Atlanta needs its own 12 for Life initiative!
We recognize that Atlanta Public Schools has a lot of healing to do, and we are conscious of our past culture and issues. We are taking steps to do more to prepare our students for lifelong careers and work, so consider this an open invitation to get involved.
Click here to learn more about the CTAE programs offered in Atlanta Public Schools.