We closed out the 8th annual Career Clusters Institute with a panel discussion lead by Tim Taylor, President of Colorado Succeeds, a coalition of business leaders who focus on education and workforce policy. He explained to the audience that the business community is excited about career pathways because they provide the “why” to students who question the relevance and importance of high school and postsecondary. The panel included Gary Barbosa, Lockheed Martin; Elaine Gantz Berman, Colorado State Board of Education; and Tom Currigan, Kaiser Permanente. Expanding on Mr. Taylor’s point about relevancy, Mr. Barbosa of Lockheed Martin stated that businesses should be part of enticing students to their industries and should be developing talent rather than just being the consumer of talent. He suggested that businesses should offer programs such as internships for teachers as a way to help them teach relevant skills in the classroom.
Ms. Gantz Berman said that Colorado just revised their state education standards to focus more on workforce readiness and 21st century skills, with a big emphasis on CTE. They are also working on assessments that will be able to test these areas. She was also passionate about the need to get Career Clusters into all of our high schools – to “mainstream it” as she said. But she was not sure how to accomplish this.
Finally, Mr. Currigan of Kaiser Permanente emphasized the need for a skilled workforce. When a company considers moving to region, the first thing they look at is whether there are skilled workers there. In order to keep the workforce in tune with the times, he said each Career Cluster must be continually refreshed to keep up with the changes and new demands from industry. But more important than the specific technical skills required by the job, employers want workers who are able to navigate complexity and who understand connections – skills that the foundational Career Clusters Knowledge and Skills statements help students master.