Common Core and Workforce Development
The following commentary was published in the Silicon Valley Business Journal on Friday, February 6, 2015:
The health of California's 21st century economy depends on a skilled workforce. Yet there are too few qualified applicants to create talent pools for jobs that fuel our economic growth. Silicon Valley businesses like tech, life sciences and clean energy know this all too well. To change this dynamic, Common Core State Standards must be considered central to the workforce development equation.
Businesses across Silicon Valley should consider Common Core to be as critical and important as any of their other workforce development priorities. Local businesses should look to build partnerships with schools to help bolster students' learning experiences and enhance their understanding of how to translate their education into real-world skills.
Further connecting Common Core to Silicon Valley workforce development priorities can translate into meaningful change for students. Schools and businesses can work together to help prepare students for the future by integrating the benefits of Common Core into activities extending beyond the traditional school day.
United Ways across California have already started this work. Health and income factors greatly affect students' abilities to succeed in school, so children need the right support at every stage from cradle to career. That is why we invest in local programs including early childhood education, such as the Bridge to Kindergarten program; early grade reading like the Schools of Hope program; and workforce development and financial management, such as the SparkPoint financial coaching centers and Matchbridge youth employment program for work-based learning. Common Core expands the possibility for business leaders and schools to help expand these programs and create others.
Historically, workforce development has focused on better preparing adults for new opportunities by providing training — sometimes in college, on the job or during times of unemployment. Thankfully, K-12 schools are coming into the picture in a big way, thanks to Common Core, along with the Local Control Funding Formula and increasing attention to career pathways education.
The standards were developed by the National Association of Governors and the Council of Chief State School Officers, working with teachers, and have been adopted voluntarily by California and 42 other states. All kids now have access to a quality education. Common Core stresses concepts that have been the focus of gifted students' education for many years. These concepts stress rigor, depth, complexity, relevance and deeper understanding that will continue challenging and benefiting high-performing kids and help close the gap in student achievement. This will increase their likelihood of success as college students, employees, parents and community members.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will need to fill a projected gap of more than 1.5 million skilled workers that have "some college" experience within the next decade. And while STEM jobs in the state are projected to grow 22 percent by 2020, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that in 2011, 75 percent of California's 8th graders were not proficient in national math standards.
Now is the time to tap into the benefits of Common Core and further connect the classroom and the workplace to develop a thriving workforce that can build a more prosperous future for all of us.