I recently participated in an event sponsored by numerous automotive industry leaders in the Detroit area. They invited superintendents from Michigan to collaborate with them on how to develop the talent needed to fill the thousands of ‘new’ manufacturing/auto/tech jobs that are emerging across sixteen state counties. The event organizers presented data and profiles about these jobs. They discussed different avenues of preparing high schoolers for these positions. They sought the district leaders’ ideas regarding the same.
I learned a lot about how manufacturing jobs have been transformed. To be employed in this pathway one needs to be highly technically skilled and experienced. This includes knowledge of content, technology application, and systems integration. These are highly complex jobs that require expertise not only in core standard curricula but in relevant uses of technology tools within the same.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released a policy briefing underscoring the very message as outlined above (http://www.oecd.org/employment/emp/Skills-for-a-Digital-World.pdfP)
And there is a void of talented candidates in MI to fill these jobs. Across sixteen MI counties, the bedrock of high tech development and engineering jobs, the companies are struggling to find talent to fill positions. Many have instituted internships and co-op work that are fed by local school districts. The profile of career technical schools has shifted dramatically. Where there exists high caliber, rigorous applied learning programs focused on integrated disciplines and the fusion of technologies, they are producing ‘ready to go’ employees. They are being placed immediately in top notch positions that posture them for continued career growth and opportunities.
The Early College program (TEC) exists across the country. The original initiative, as I understand it, was launched in 2002 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then many Early and Middle College programs have emerged. What I need to do is re-engage with the industry leaders who are seeking talent and make sure they are aware of the TECs that exist in Michigan. Based on the TEC curricula, they should be able to pull graduates and current students from these settings into the work place.
There were only three TECs in MI a short time ago. Today they have expanded into more state counties. Nexus Academy of Lansing will join TEC at Lansing Community College. Here’s an overview of the program.
“The vision of The Early College at Lansing Community College is to provide mid-Michigan high school students the opportunity to earn up to sixty college credits as part of their high school learning experience. We will promote innovation and best practices in education. Our students will have a personalized learning experience within a small learning community, a positive school experience and the social and academic tools to successfully continue their education or career.” (http://www.lcc.edu/earlycollege/documents/annual-report-2016.pdf)
The program creators are committed to a nontraditional ‘school’. Their goal is to ensure learners develop a zeal for continued growth and are prepared to be successful in our globally competitive world. The development of students’ creativity, problem-solving, experiential learning and flexibility are embedded in the curricula.
TEC in Lansing is a three year program for students entering grade 11 in the fall. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are the basis for the curricula. These disciplines prepare learners for an array of careers and ensure a strong base for many four-year college majors.
Learners start the program via core high school courses and participation in learning success skill training to be prepare for the rigor of college work. “In the middle of their first semester, students may become eligible to be credentialed for taking college classes to obtain at least 60 transferrable college credits or a minimum of 30 credits in a certificate program. Students also receive extensive career readiness and exploration learning experiences.” (firstname.lastname@example.org) TEC’s standard core curriculum meets Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements. Learners also have the opportunity to receive transferable college credits that pave the way to an Associate Degree or Certificate program.
The illustration below profiles LLC’s Early College class of 2016.
The Principal at Nexus Academy of Lansing has met with a number of teachers at the county’s career and technical center. Quite a few of his students participate in programs at the center. Each teacher with whom the principal spoke told him that Nexus sends the most premier students to their programs. They are head over heels beyond the students from other high schools because they actually know how to effectively use technologies within their skill/content areas. The teachers noted that with the other schools’ students, they have to teach them how to use and integrate the tech tools as well as master the content. It’s double duty for the teachers and most significantly for the learners.
Schools like Nexus Academy and other successful 1 to 1 settings are providing students with technology skills that are crucial to successful matriculation into a global workplace. There are pools of talent being developed in these and the Early College setting.
Learning this I thought about the auto industry leaders’ pleas for talent development. I thought about the mission of well implementing 1 to 1 technologies in schools that I’ve supported for 15 years. Back then this was a new, often ballyhooed frontier. Most school leaders avoided implementing technologies because of cost and their lack of understanding and prognosticating what the world would expect from students in ten short years. Today, we see an uptick in schools’ acquiring technologies. Those acquisitions must be accompanied by vision, strategy, high quality leadership and a focus on learner outcomes to best ensure the talent needed for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.
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