The rise of the internet and related technologies has changed the education industry in a variety of ways. Brick-and-mortar educational institutions now have access to the sum of the world's knowledge at the push of a button, and students are flocking to eLearning platforms at all levels to earn degrees and certifications. At the same time, the professional world is undergoing a transformation as well. As more and more companies embrace digitization, the demand for workers with a range of tech skills is skyrocketing.
That rising demand has created something of a problem for educators, who are rushing to adapt existing teaching topics and methods to start preparing the students that will become the lifeblood of the new information economy. Interestingly, many schools are rising to the challenge by emulating the very businesses that their students may eventually work. From teaching (and applying) management approaches to adopting a startup mentality, there seems to be no end to the growing parallels between modern schools and modern workplaces. Here's a look at some of the most notable examples.
Adopting a Real-World Approach
An excellent example of a school district that is realigning its approach to preparing the workforce of the future is located in a place where few would expect to find it: rural Ohio. Beginning in 2018, Graham Local Schools, based in Saint Paris, OH embraced a new approach to teaching their students the skills they'll need in the digital world. They created an industry partnership program that includes more than 30 companies and organizations that offer students real-world experience throughout their learning journey. Students have access to internship programs, job shadowing, and even apprenticeships that can help them begin a career before they even graduate. The district also offers Lean Six Sigma courses and makes sure that all students can graduate with a valuable certification in the business efficiency and management technique.
Designing From the Ground Up
Another example of schools remaking their curricula and offerings to better reflect the high-tech reality that students will find upon graduation may be found in San Antonio, Texas. Not content to simply adjust their existing schools, the district instead opted to partner with business leaders to open new, industry-specific schools, known as CAST schools. The thing that makes the CAST program unique is that each school operates with a narrow focus on specific careers that students can choose to pursue. The entire approach is experience driven, and the schools themselves are designed to operate just like the businesses that helped design them. CAST students can also earn industry certifications and up to two full years of college credit alongside their high school diplomas, leaving them qualified for jobs in their chosen industry much earlier than their peers.
The Startup School
The last, but most interesting example of schools that are aiming to mirror the professional world as a means of giving their students 21st-century skills is found right in the middle of a thriving manufacturing and technology hub. The STEAM Center, located in New York's Brooklyn Navy Yard, is a public high school that functions less like a traditional educational institution, and more like an enormous real-world job simulation of what it's like to work in a startup business. The school focuses on five individual career paths, which correspond to businesses with a presence at the school's location, and provides students with a state of the art facility that mirrors that of the very companies they may one day work for. Also, since many of the companies participating with the school have a presence in the same building, students will come and go alongside professionals in their chosen field. That will give them a valuable chance to network and build connections well before they're ready to enter the workforce.
The Jobs of the Future
The examples names here point toward a growing recognition that the accelerating growth of technology calls for a wholesale reimagining of how our educational systems should be preparing students for their future. It seems that more schools and districts are realizing that teaching specific skills, not subjects, is the way to make sure students are ready to dive into a business world with filled with higher demands and evolving needs. Through experiential learning and environments that mirror what they'll encounter in the real world, today's schools seem better prepared than ever to meet the challenge of creating the workforce of the future – and in doing so have become a reflection of the new economy they help to fuel.