Where Is Our National Group?

I’ve referenced a group in the UK several times – Education and Employers – that puts out some great research, writing and national initiatives in that country. I recently learned of a similar group in Australia, The Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN), that fulfills a similar purpose down under.

I came across them via a paper they released a couple of years ago titled “What Do Schools Want from Engagement with Business?” While most of the discussion seems to be around what businesses want, and how businesses want to work with schools, ABCN instead looked at school needs, interests and practices, which is refreshing and should be discussed more.

I can’t say there were many surprises:

Schools are most interested in providing students with career awareness and exploration opportunities, and most schools have had positive experiences with businesses and want to increase the number of employer relationships they have. But this kind of research is important because knowing is much better than assuming – and there’s always a chance that these kinds of surveys will turn up new insights and spot trends as they develop.

And that brings me to the topic of this post, referenced in the headline. The UK has a national group focused on employer/school relationships, and now I’ve learned that Australia does as well. Where is the US in all this?

I can tell you that we had some organizations in the past, including the National Association of Partners in Education and the Business Coalition for Education Reform, both of which were active in the 80s and 90s, and both of which closed around 2001 or 2002. And there was a glimmer of hope for a new group called the Business Education Network in 2005 (It was rolled out with great fanfare by the US Chamber of Commerce and quickly disappeared).

I have seen some positive developments in recent years: The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) launched a work-based learning group a couple of years ago which is doing some outstanding work, and has the potential to create a real impact going forward. And as I mentioned in another recent post, a foundation called American Student Assistance has recently turned its focus to career-connected learning, conducting some important original research and promising to do more work in this area.

But the fact remains:

The US does not have a national voice on this critically important topic, one that can convene, conduct research, and set guidelines. Why not?


Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) (www.nc3t.com). 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.