The Missing Piece In Employer Engagement

In The Beginning…

Towards the end of the last century, there was an inspiring focus on connecting employers and schools. The Reagan administration, on the heels of its “A Nation At Risk report,” made a real push to encourage employers to work with educators and students. This movement carried through to the end of the century. National groups, including the National Association of Partners in Education and the Business Coalition for Education Reform (out of the National Alliance of Business), formed to convene educators and employers around this topic and provide guidance on effective practices.

Over Time…

After that, everything fell apart. Those employers lost interest in working with schools, and turned instead to political advocacy to drive change. (Lots of theories as to why, by the way, which is probably a good topic for a future post.) Then, the organizations that were dedicated to engagement, including both NAPE and BCER, closed shop in 2002 during a minor recession. A few state chapters of NAPE struggled on for a while, but they’re largely all gone. A few organizations tried to take up the banner, including the US Chamber’s Business Education Network and Change the Equation, but could not find a path to sustainability.


I’m reminded of this every time I get an email from Education and Employers, a fantastic nonprofit located in the UK. They place an emphasis on employer engagement – compiling and even commissioning research on Career-Connected Learning. The organization brings people together for conferences and symposia to discuss key topics. They have even launched national employer engagement campaigns, building a national volunteer network, trying to diversify membership of school boards, and helping young people challenge stereotypes in various occupations.

I know there are thousands of people across this country doing great work on employer engagement and work-based learning. But I also know they’re pretty much doing it all themselves. There are no longer any peer networks allowing people to learn from one another. Nor are there sources for best practices, case studies, and research. There are certainly no national voices encouraging volunteering and school engagement from the business community.

If someone is aware of such a movement, please let me know.  And, if not, let me know that you’re planning to start something along these lines. It’s desperately needed, and we would welcome an opportunity to support people doing essential work in this area.

We have recently launched a FREE course: Finding and Engaging Employer Partners. In this course, you will learn simple and effective strategies for identifying prospective employer partners, establishing a relationship, and getting a commitment. To start the course, click here.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.