To the editor:
A significant portion of our high school graduates, do not go to college and approximately 40% those that do go to college drop out. Students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, or who face other struggles, face a greater challenge to finding successful employment. Corporations and educational institutions have been finding ways to partner with communities to close the skills gap among students as the latest findings from the Pew Research Center has the US in 38th place out of 71 countries when it comes to math scores and 24th place when it comes to science.
Google creates free training tools, and events to help students, teachers and small business owners, with its Grow with Google program. Code.org’s partnership with National Math + Science Initiative helped build curriculum for K-12 and MIT’s “Highlights for High School” and their MIT + K12 Videos spark curiosity.
Yet, a traditional four-year degree may not be necessary. Grand Circus supports non-tech students interested in transitioning into a tech career. Their graduation rates are 87.2% and median salaries after completing the program is around $52,000. Lambda School offers a nine month program, at no up-front cost. Students pay a percentage of their income after they are employed and making more than $50K a year. No payment is made if a graduate does not find a job or does not reach that income level.
What if the US had a Germany-style dual education system — a vocational and education training (VET) program? It offers a viable way to achieve any student’s goal while earning money, learning, and gaining experience. The system partners technical schools and businesses, allowing students to combine training in advanced areas of manufacturing or technology while getting on-the-job work experience at a company. Studies are paid and jobs are salaried. In fact, 50% of college-bound German students who decide not to go to university end up choosing a vocational training path instead.
We need an engaged critical mass of business leaders working in partnership with public partners in workforce development, economic development and community organizations. The agenda should be driven by business leaders and supported by a broad team of support partners.
I see a U.S. system-wide version of dual education, with tax-free income for our teachers and paid work experience at its core making a significant impact.