As you think about how to engage businesses in education, it makes sense to look at the benefits we can promise them in exchange for their support. But it’s just as important to look at the benefits to schools and educators. For a partnership to work, every partner has to see the advantages of contributing their time and resources to the effort.
It’s easy to skip over the benefits to educators by simply saying, “they’re in it for the kids.” Of course, educators are interested in student outcomes and working with employers provides students with many benefits. But the reality is that building employer partnerships is time-consuming and educators have a LOT of demands on their time. If educators don’t see any personal or professional benefits, partnerships will continue to be a “nice to have” rather than a “have to have” given their many other commitments.
To make partnerships worthwhile, we have to look specifically at how partnerships can benefit teachers and their schools. Fortunately, educators will see many direct benefits from working with business partners, such as:
Better Market Information
Schools and CTE programs in particular, can truly succeed if the education they provide to their students lines up with the realities students will face. But for some CTE teachers, it has been a number of years since they directly participated in the workforce. Technology, procedures and standards have changed significantly, yet their first-hand perspective is locked in previous decades. Strong business involvement keeps them current.
Improved Access to Resources
In a time of flat or declining budgets, the support that partners provide can make a huge impact on school operations and student services. This includes not only financial support, but gifts of time (volunteers) and goods and services.
Improved Employee Morale
Teachers and administrators who are connected to the community through partnerships feel more confident and better-supported in their work. When they become involved in industry work through training and externships, their morale and confidence (not to mention knowledge and skills) improves further.
Better Staff Support and Development
There are many partnerships in which teachers receive externship and training opportunities. These partnerships allow them to stay connected to the industry and keep up with current information and practices. They can also help teachers become more comfortable with new content areas. In addition to providing them new ways to engage students with existing content. Administrators can benefit as well. There are several partnerships in which CEOs have served as executive mentors to new principals, helping them learn to manage time, facilities, change, and culture.
In many communities, there is a real disconnect between schools and the business community. Unless they have firsthand experience with their schools, business people may not understand the challenges that schools are facing. Ranging from big challenges like poverty issues to smaller ones like paperwork requirements and approval processes. Partnerships are a way to bring business people into the schools to let them see what’s happening firsthand and serve as ambassadors to the community.
Opportunities for Students
Most educators in CTE, have seen time after time how much of an impact real-world experiences can have on students. They learn how businesses work; how to conduct themselves professionally; they see the relevance of what they’re learning in the classroom; they become more engaged; and they have a much clearer sense of direction. Working with business partners makes all of these opportunities possible.
As you work with your business partners to develop your partnership plans, remember to spend as much time focusing on the education ROI as you do on the business ROI. It’s just as important to keep your teachers engaged and your administrators on board as it is to gain buy-in from your businesses.
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools to help community-based leadership teams. These resources help them plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.