“Our company is in Massachusetts because of the high-quality workforce.”
It’s a phrase we hear often from AIM member employers. Just as frequently, however, we hear:
“The unemployment rate may be high, but we can’t fill our open positions.”
“Job applicants don’t have the skills we’re looking for.”
“Young people just out of school aren’t ready for the world of work.”
Massachusetts employers, competing in a global knowledge-based economy, have a huge stake in the capabilities of the high school and college graduates they hire. It’s no accident that the strongest and most consistent impetus for education reform, nationally and at the state level, has come from the business community. The standards-based public school reform undertaken in Massachusetts and other states has produced improved scores on high school tests such as MCAS. But these results show little correlation with students’ subsequent success in postsecondary education and employment.
So how do we measure the ability of schools to prepare students for college or the workplace? The task is challenging, in part because employers disagree on what “career ready” actually means. In making a hire, “career ready” (possessing content and learning skills for long-term success) is often less critical than “work ready” (prepared for reliability, responsibility and cooperation in the day-to-day workplace), or than “job trained” (with the specific skills required for the position to be filled). Meanwhile, many a young graduate ready for a career is finding that an excellent liberal arts education may not be enough to get that first job in this economy.
AIM will tackle these issues at the 2012 Annual Meeting & Luncheon on May 11 with a panel discussion on “College and Career Readiness Efforts in Massachusetts Public Schools” featuring representatives of the elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and employers, in conversation with Annual Meeting attendees.
Representing the schools is Maura O. Banta of IBM, who chairs the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. From higher education we have Aundrea E. Kelley, Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Angelo F. Sabatalo, Corporate Director, Organizational Development & Training, Nypro Inc. represents the employer perspective. The panel’s moderator is Linda M. Noonan, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), which has published several reports on workforce readiness.
The objective will be to address key questions: Is our education system strong enough to drive the Massachusetts economy for another century? Can we give young people the reading, math and other skills they need to work in advanced manufacturing, biotech and finance? How do we close achievement gaps to enable everyone to participate in and contribute to a modern economy?