High quality education is one of the most important investments we can make in California’s future. States and regions that educate well will attract businesses to their talent pipeline. Their economies and jobs will grow and prosper. But improving quality in a complex educational system is challenging. It requires vision, focus and persistence on key leverage points where politically feasible investments can yield large scale and sustainable improvements in educational quality.
California, the eighth largest economy in the world and a wellspring of technological innovation, should be leading the world in developing innovative talent workers. The Bay Area Council works to return California to its former position as a leader in education, from preschool through higher education. Using a collective impact approach we bring thoughtful business leaders, educators, multiple experts, and other stakeholders together to create real and lasting impact.
Supporting Higher Education
The Bay Area Council supports stabilizing state funding for higher education in California. A statewide poll the Council released in January 2016 found that California voters want to put the brakes on decades of state funding cuts to higher education, with 63 percent of voters saying they would support a ballot initiative to guarantee stable funding for the University of California and California State University systems.
Our schools were designed for a different era – based on paper textbooks and quiet students in rows listening. This 20th Century system does not leverage the individualized interactive lessons possible with 21st Century constant internet connectivity. The future of learning is interactive, individualized, and full of real-world experiences and information at the touch of a key. Unfortunately, the average school has about the same connectivity as the average American home, but serves 200 times as many users or more. Fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school’s internet connection meets their teaching needs.
The business community has a large stake in the output and return on investment of education. Our knowledge and innovation based economy depends on the timely supply of well-prepared talent. Currently there exists a “Skills Gap” that is symbolized by students with certain skills clusters that are not in demand while at the same time there are high skills, high wage, high demand jobs that go unfilled or that have a limited supply of viable candidates. It’s time to better align education and training to job opportunities. The states and regions that do this best will be most attractive for business locations and expansions.
Responsibility for this new alignment belongs to everyone: policy makers, businesses, and educators. Policy makers can provide incentives and remove barriers. Businesses need to collaborate on curriculum and provide opportunities for career awareness for students and educators and for workplace learning opportunities. Educators need to innovate to address needed skills, to provide for early college credits, and to align career pathways across the education segments of K-12, community colleges, and universities.
A key challenge facing educators is the lack of a systemic mechanism for smoothly and sustainably partnering with business. One-off partnerships result in fragmented and frequently un-sustained arrangements that focus on alleviating immediate needs but not on building a sustainable system. Employers may become wearied by the volume of requests, the absence of a systemic operation, and lack of regional economies of scale. What is needed is an “intermediary” or a regional one stop shop that fields requests, scales business inputs, manages collaborations and convenings, identifies best practices and addresses challenges and policy concerns.
The Bay Area Council has launched a dedicated function within our organization to address the Skills Gap. As a regional Intermediary, we will develop career pathway business-education partnerships and facilitate communication and collaboration on supply and demand.