Nov 22 2017

Tech Firms, Education Leaders Team Up to Improve Students’ Skills

Apprenticeship programs and certifications give students the skills they need to thrive in the workplace.

For colleges and K–12 schools alike, preparing today’s students for the workforce has gotten even more challenging. With many of today’s jobs requiring tech skills and some even being replaced by automation completely, schools must take great care to make sure students are prepared for the future.

So, how can they do that?

The majority of respondents in the OZY Poll on the Future of Work, conducted in August by OZY and SurveyMonkey, believe that technology companies should take a more active role in helping high school educators prepare students for the future.

From apprenticeship programs to providing support for innovative education programs, tech companies can help close the skills gap that exists between high school/college graduation and landing a job.

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Apprenticeships, Tech Training Provide Valuable Learning Experience

The OZY poll indicates that 57 percent of respondents believe that tech companies should work to create apprenticeship programs in U.S. high schools and 42 percent believe they should support teachers’ tech use in the classroom.

Apprenticeship programs have been in the news this year, with President Trump signing an executive order to increase the number of apprenticeships by doubling the amount the government spends on them, Fortune reports.

Developing apprenticeship programs is a win-win for the education sector and businesses. Through these programs, companies provide students with valuable hands-on experiences while determining the skills they need from future employees.

“Successful apprenticeship programs work best when designed by employers around their own needs,” reports Fortune.

Learning a tangible skill or trade was ranked as the most valuable educational aspect acquired after high school in the OZY poll. One way that colleges can help students learn valuable technical skills is by partnering with industry leaders to create effective training programs.

In Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Scholars Program, undergrads pair with a professor/mentor and an industry partner to solve real-life problems, EdTech reports.

Manufacturing industry sponsors help the college provide the students with access to modern technologies such as computer numerical control (CNC) machining, 3-D printing and computer-aided design software.

“[The program] gives students the opportunity to gain real-world experience, while giving industry an opportunity to get to know students they might want to hire long-term,” says Andrew Dugenske, factory information systems director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute.

Not all students need to wait until college to receive similar real-world experience. Students at Warren County High School in rural McMinnville, Tenn., work in a mechatronics program — a field of science that combines mechanical, computer, systems, telecommunications and control engineering.

Work in the program can lead to internships with local manufacturers and help students acquire entry-level certifications linked to careers earning more than $45,000 a year, Education Week reports.

In addition to this program, Education Week notes that other school districts in Tennessee have been rethinking how their technical programs can better meet the demands of the labor market.

All in all, providing hands-on work experience will become integral for educational institutions to succeed in preparing students for the workforce.

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