The Disconnect Between Education and Entrepreneurship Education
As the CEO of an edtech startup, I witness first-hand the abundant challenges that confront our country’s educational system. While there are pockets of hope, it feels like things are getting worse, not better. The U.S. continues to lag behind other countries when it comes to student outcomes. In the most recent study published by PISA, among developed countries, the U.S. ranked 41st in math, 24th in reading and 25th in science. In a nation so rich in resources, arguably the greatest country in the world, this is at best alarming and at worst, an existential threat.
While our academic standing in the international community is important, it is by no means the most pressing issue associated with a deteriorating educational system. Of greater concern to me, and something that impacts all entrepreneurs directly, is that we are consistently graduating kids from high school who don’t have the necessary skills to meet the demands of a 21st century economy.
As entrepreneurs, this should set off alarm bells. Building a business requires a certain mix of people with the right set of skills. If you can’t find these people, then an already exhausting climb will start feeling more like scaling Everest itself. I’ve made no secret of my ongoing struggles to find and hire the right people for my team. It’s a challenge that I share with entrepreneurs all across the country. And it’s not just a problem for startups like mine. It’s a problem for companies big and small, across many industries. The jobs of the future are there, but who will fill them?
The jobs I’m speaking of do not, and should not, require college degrees. But they do require that candidates have strong communication skills, the ability to reason effectively, a high familiarity with modern web and mobile technologies, and great soft skills. While this may sound absurd to many, significant numbers of U.S high school students graduate each year without the basic ability to speak and write effectively. Putting together emails or other forms of business communications that articulate the writer’s position in a straightforward and simple manner, without grammatical and spelling errors, is beyond the abilities of large swaths of kids. It should not require four years of college to develop the reasoning abilities and soft skills required of an employee to answer a customer call, listen carefully to a customer’s issue, communicate to the customer that their issue is important, quickly analyze the customer’s problem, and work out a solution with other employees and internal stakeholders. Yet, one would be hard pressed to find recent high school graduates who can perform these tasks without an immense amount of training.
Every year kids leave high school prepared for little more than filling millions of low wage retail and service sector jobs. There’s nothing wrong with service sector jobs, other than the reality that they are decidedly not the jobs of the future. If Amazon has its way, you may never again interact with a cashier or retail clerk. And that is but one of the more obvious examples. There are thousands of other technology companies, large and small, working on ways to disrupt the way we buy, sell, and interact with the world. So retooling our education system to produce students who can hit the ground running right out of high school is not only an economic imperative, it is of vital importance to the stability of our society.
Usually when I am witness to something that isn’t working in education, I need look no further than my company’s hometown to find solutions. Here in New Orleans we have several organizations that are focused on this issue including YouthForce NOLA and Rooted School. Both organizations aim to prepare and connect high school students with jobs in health sciences, technology and skilled crafts — all industries that are high wage, and high-demand. YouthForce NOLA works with schools to design specialized courses of study and connect students with internships that provide clear pathways to careers right out of high school. Rooted School’s mission is to prepare high school students to compete for the same jobs as college students in high wage and high demand industries, starting with technology jobs.
I am optimistic that we will figure this out. History has shown that we are a highly innovative and resilient country. I am confident that New Orleans isn’t the only city tackling these issues. However, time is of the essence. We have a lot of catching up to do and a lot of ground to cover. As entrepreneurs, it’s our job to make our leaders aware of the issues that impact our businesses — and nothing is more important to a growing business than its ability to tap into a well trained workforce.
Courtesy:By Courtney Williams, Source link