Leadership magazine Nov/Dec 2015 V45 No 2 - Page 21

ous gap in workforce skills, and nearly 50 percent are struggling to f ill jobs. In 2013, CNBC surveyed 500 top executives about the skills gap, and nearly 44 percent believed the gap is based on “soft skills” or “career readiness.” Only 22 percent believed it was a technical skills issue; another 14 percent thought it was a lack of leadership; and 12 percent believed it was a lack of computer-based skills. Looking closely at what is needed, 70 percent of the skills identified in the skills gap survey are addressed in the California Standards for Career Ready Practice. The technical skills gap (22 percent) can also be addressed in the California CTE Model Curriculum Standards, adopted in 2013. It is clear that business and industry need students who are college and career ready; that’s why the new state standards make sense, and why they are more important than ever. To truly bridge the looming skills gap identified in national surveys, it’s going to take strong, authentic partnerships between education, business and local governments. A new kind of partnership Educators can’t do it alone. To truly bridge the looming skills gap identified in national surveys, it’s going to take strong, authentic partnerships between education, business and local governments. Only with a solid partnership and strong work-based learning plan can districts begin to fully prepare students for college and career. This is the full intent of the new state standards. Partnerships in education have existed for years. Districts have historically had pa rent adv isor y commit tees, Engl ish learner advisory committees, joint meetings with local city governments, agreements/MOUs with local community colleges and county offices of education and, in some cases, partnerships with law enforcement around school safety. These are all important partnerships, but sometimes they are not enough. Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure we have our business partners engaged in conversations around college and career readiness and that our graduate prof ile is one that prepares students for the current and future work environment. As districts, we often try to develop graduate profile outcomes ourselves. We look at outcomes through academic lenses and neglect to engage our local industry leaders regarding their needs. We write outcomes that align to our standards, and while they speak to college and career readiness, they may not align with the specific needs of our community. Many educators will say, “Local business doesn’t understand education” or “We don’t have time to review our outcomes and align them.” In an authentic partnership, we value the importance of the needs of our business community, and we take time to engage them in that process. How can we not? Schools prepare students to become active members of society, able to contribute to the community. We want them to be successful and financially independent. Why would we not engage the very businesses that may eventually hire our students and ask the question: “What do you need, and how can we better prepare our students for you?” VUSD’s partnership journey Visalia Unified School District is having these conversations and developing tremendous partnerships with local business and industry to develop a solid and progressive graduate profile. In 2013, Visalia Unified joined the Tulare/Kings Linked Learning Consortium. At the time, it was a seven-district consortium led by Porterville USD and focused on the implementation of Linked Learning. Linked Learning is an approach to education that combines relevant academics, rigorous career-themed courses, workbased learning, and wrap-around student support structures in a school-within-aschool/academy model. With the need evident and pressing, VUSD resurrected an old committee developed in 2001 called Visalia Partners in Education (VPIE). At its inception in 2001, it was convened to support Career Technical Education programs in the district and give them a little boost of support during an economically trying time. The partnership between education and business focused on partners going into schools to talk to students about career readiness and job preparation. This part of the partnership included $150,000 of direct and in-kind financial support from industry partners. In addition, Visalia Unified committed $150,000 a year to support CTE throughout the district and help keep up with an ever-changing work world. The program was successful; unfortunately, due to programmatic changes and the time commitment of a select few business partNovember | December 2015 21