Education is quite possibly the most important economic issue of our time. From school readiness and early-grade reading proficiency to strategies for college and workforce success, we should lay down a marker challenging ourselves to develop an education system that bridges the gap between school and work. It is our best opportunity to establish a foundation for a workforce capable of creating and expanding regional economic vitality.
Education statistics can be alarming, but they offer the information we need to address our education system shortcomings and build on our successes. This information is our guide to help us focus our efforts on improving education as a critical building block for improving our community conditions.
EconNSBC is looking at the big picture and convening citizens and key stakeholders to build an understanding of the nature of our education challenges and develop a collective approach to solving them.
It is estimated that 3 million-plus jobs in America remain unfilled, despite the continuing high unemployment rate. Employers point to the lack of qualified candidates as the major barrier to hiring, citing a lack of technical and soft skills needed to meet workplace demands.
If we are not effectively educating and preparing students for the realities of the workforce, we will continue to see our communities struggle with the issues that stand in the way of economic growth and vitality.
There is a direct correlation between an unprepared workforce and high unemployment, underemployment, overburdened social programs, and high crime rates. Magic answers are not going to come from Washington or Sacramento. Solutions will come when local business and education communities work as partners to identify needs and deploy limited community resources strategically to structure our education system to meet real world demands.
The strong bridge between school and the workforce is essential. Addressing the last piece of the education experience and workforce pipeline is critical for North County. We cannot simply stop at high school graduation. We must graduate students on time who are prepared for the rigors of the 21st-century workforce and higher education. When we are successful at developing and executing strategies that impact the three areas mentioned above, we can expect to see more young people succeeding in school, in the workforce and in life.
EconNSBC is convening people with passion, expertise and/or resources to make a difference in our community, through our Education/Workforce Development Initiative. This initiative is an important element of the sector-strategy approach of EconNSBC’s road map to economic recovery and vitality.
If you are interested in joining our Education/Workforce team, please contact EconNSBC at www.econnsbc.org/contact/.
Eddie Taylor is CEO of the Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, providing the Power Reading program in schools throughout our community. He is also the Education/Workforce Development Initiative director for EconAlliance.