via The Kansas City Star
By DIANE STAFFORD
Nancy Hart Kline, counselor at Leawood Middle School, sent letters to 63 companies and professional associations, asking them to participate in an educational career fair at the school.
She heard back with a “yes” from two. One of them was her own Blue Valley School District.
Deborah Goodall, interim president of the Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology Campus, hoped to have a hundred employers attend a career exploration event at the school.
Fifteen signed up.
It’s not too hard to understand why companies and nonprofits aren’t leaping to send representatives to educational career fairs. These are hard days in many cost-cutting, do-more-with-less businesses. Anything that isn’t revenue-producing or productivity-enhancing isn’t a high priority.
But let’s talk about that productivity part.
“In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity — it is a prerequisite.”
Can you identify the speaker?
That was President Barack Obama prefacing his remarks to Congress on the education component of his stimulus plan.
He didn’t sugarcoat the need for America to do better — far better — in preparing students for the workplace. We are falling behind other countries which “out-teach us today” and will “out-compete us tomorrow,” he said.
From her vantage point in the middle school, Kline is afraid that the business community is missing that point. In her own words:
“This is an opportunity for them to let students know what they want in future workers. One company said they would not come since they are currently not hiring! These are students that will not be in the work force for another six to 10 years, depending on post-secondary schooling. …
“I’m a little discouraged, as I’ve read for years that employers are wanting young people to have a better understanding of both the work ethic and the skills needed to contribute to the work force, but given the opportunity, I’m not seeing much employer follow-through.”
That’s where my point about productivity comes in. Taking three hours out of a busy workday to attend a school career fair may be the most productive thing a business or professional organization can do in the month.
That small amount of time may be what plants the seed to nurture future engineers, gerontologists, teachers or computer programmers.
The president acknowledged that it’s one thing to channel funds, design programs and set policies to “open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them.”
The doors may be stuck on economic thresholds, but it’s no less crucial to shove them open for workers of tomorrow.