Magazine article Teach

Business-Education Partnerships: Marriages of Convenience and Affection

Magazine article Teach

Business-Education Partnerships: Marriages of Convenience and Affection

Article excerpt

Bird carving, dog sledding weekends, and making rocking horses for Christmas are all part of what Derald Fretts, a former teacher and partnership coordinator at Ernest Manning High School, in Calgary, played when bringing businesses into partnership with the school. Whether it's big businesses or small businesses you're interested in working with, "A handshake is not the same thing as a handout," said Fretts, now the coordinator of corporate partnerships for the Calgary Board of Education.

At Ernest Manning High School, teachers did some soul and hobby searching until they came up with a game plan which includes teaching a variety of practical and whimsical courses and workshops, and spearheading parties, charity functions and other events which appeal to many in the companies with which they seek a bond. A very successful partnership (it's already won a stack of prizes locally and across the country) has been underway for more than five years with The Calgary Herald, a newspaper employing more than 600 people. Shane Homes, and the Hard Rock Care have also teamed up with the school to offer lectures, job shadowing, jobs for pay and for credit, a helping hand, and, at times, donations.

"In Calgary, companies are generally very good corporate citizens and really want to help," said Fretts. Dog sleds aside, The Calgary Herald teamed up with Ernest Manning High School to promote literacy. They also give interested students exposure to graphic arts, printing, system networking, human resources, marketing, and the various components of building maintenance. Promoting scientific and mathematical literacy is just as important to Spar Aerospace and to pharmaceutical giant, Merck Frosst, which interact with schools to increase the odds of students graduating with skills needed by these companies and Canada.

"Gone are the days, however, when a school-business partnership was about one partner giving and the other merely taking," said Hayward Blake, formerly principal of Ascension Collegiate, in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, now working for the province's Avalon West Board. "If the partnership is to survive, it must be mutually beneficial and make a difference to both partners."

At Ascension Collegiate, partnership meant integrating the Internet into much of the general curriculum, a task which required teachers to learn and apply new skills and to reorganize courses. This started in 1995 when few schools and homes had access to the Internet. In exchange for participating in research about e-mail and the Internet, Ascension Collegiate was outfitted by NewTel, the provincial telephone company, with the infrastructure required for them to access the Internet. This helped the school to meet goals of greater Internet involvement and enabled them to apply to Human Resources Development Canada for the money needed to participate in a technology-based youth internship program. Students used the Internet to promote tourism in their region and gained confidence in their abilities to learn and earn despite a decline in the fisheries and other core industries in the province. Local business people who, all along, recognized the value of giving students a first class education with highly technological skills, continued to raise thousands of dollars for the school. By now, Blake estimated, they've probably raised between $60,000 to $75,000 dollars. In turn, the school used some of the funds raised to get matching funds from government and other groups, all of which was channelled back into advancing the level of technology in the school -- and then in the community.

Typically, schools and businesses want to achieve different things, said Blake. "We want to boost achievement and businesses want to boost profit." The common denominator is that "We all want to increase motivation and efficiency" -- a good way is through the cross-pollination of ideas generated in classrooms and boardrooms alike. Like the carvers and dog sledding experts at Ernest Manning High School, those at Lindsay Place High School, in Montreal, offer tangible rewards, too. …

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