Magazine article Techniques

Creating Industry Relationships That Work

Magazine article Techniques

Creating Industry Relationships That Work

Article excerpt

Big cities across the country have been faced with an alarmingly low on-time graduation rate, with The Washington Post quoting figures as low as 53 percent in 2005. (1) And Philadelphia, unfortunately, has not been exempt from this trend. As members of the career and technical education (CTE) community are aware, however, many in the media recognize that CTE is an effective strategy for increasing graduation rates, an increase that can only be attributed to CTE when its programs are high-quality.

We know that unemployment due to insufficient education or technical preparation can have devastating consequences for an entire community. This cost can be felt individually through the increasing separation between the "haves" versus the "have nots." This cost can also be felt by employers, who often cite the formidable challenge of finding skilled workers for their industries. Lastly, this unemployability also negatively affects the tax base, increases the cost of social services and has the potential to create a cycle of poverty that entraps many young people for their entire lives. From a bigger perspective, this lack of skills and knowledge can impede the nation's global competitiveness. Fortunately, Philadelphia had other plans for its young people!

Redefining Education for Philadelphia

In response to Philadelphia's education crisis, in 2008, during his first term in office, Mayor Michael A. Nutter established two educational goals: increasing the graduation rate to 80 percent and doubling the number of residents who would obtain a postsecondary degree by 2018. (2) For these goals to be realized, it became apparent that many organizations and individuals would need to collaborate on possible solutions. This led to the creation of the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success (PCCCS), a coalition of area leaders from industry, city government, the school district, higher education and non-profit youth development organizations--essentially a group of individuals who had the same goals for the youth of Philadelphia. (3) This group would prove to be instrumental in educational innovation in the city.

Around the same time, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded funds to Philadelphia to conduct a study of the city's CTE and workforce development assets. The report, titled "Strengthening Career and Technical Education and 21st-century Skills in Philadelphia," (4) also known informally as the "Knight Report," focused on a broad systemic analysis of the city in an attempt to create a truly innovative approach to workforce development. The report scaffolded off the mayor's educational goals, becoming part of the broader strategy to accomplish his goals.

Without going into too much detail, a number of big themes emerged from the report. It confirmed, for example, that CTE was working in Philadelphia. Among the deficiencies, however, was a strong indication that business and industry needed to be more engaged in shaping the educational landscape. It was also evident that with a bit of restructuring of various committees, both at the city and school district levels (where CTE programs are delivered), great gains could be made in the city's educational goals.

Restructuring the Advisory Committees

As mentioned previously, the "Knight Report" showed that the city's various CTE advisory committees needed restructuring. In designing an advisory structure that would meet the Pennsylvania State Department of Education's requirements for CTE and maintain the context of Philadelphia's workforce development programs, three organizations--the Philadelphia Youth Network, the School District of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Academies, Inc.--came together to create a three-tiered advisory structure that retains the elements required by CTE regulation, but also creates new relationships and opportunities in support of systemic change in how students learn and the way teachers teach. …

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