IN HIS REMARKS on General Electric’s relocation to Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh heralded a new era for public-private partnerships in education, saying that with GE’s help “we’re going to reinvent vocational education for the 21st century.” We agree that expanding and invigorating career, vocational, and technical education pathway models in Boston high schools can be a game changer for the local economy and thousands of Boston’s youth.

Career, vocational, and technical education connects personalized learning and academic rigor with real-world access to postsecondary and career pathways. Career and technical learning opportunities for high school students should not be electives, or housed only in VocTech schools, but integral components of traditional academic programs. All students benefit from hands-on experiences that help build problem-solving, communications, and relevant work skills that they need to be successful after high school.

National research shows us that high school students involved in career, vocational, and technical education are more engaged, perform better, and graduate at higher rates. These graduates not only meet the needs of our changing economy when they enter the workforce, but can also be valuable assets to local businesses and companies.

A recent study from Northeastern University shows many employers have difficulty filling skilled, well-paying jobs, and see the challenge worsening as greater numbers of baby boomers retire. While a four-year college degree is still a valued credential, a second study projects that between now and 2022 the majority of job openings in Massachusetts will require skills that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree.

Many schools in Boston are already responding to these challenges. Madison Park Vocational Technical High School and English High School are engaging in activities that bring career, vocational, and technical education concepts to life in their school buildings.

English High, a compre­hensive high school, recently launched five indus­try-credentialed career pathway programs. English is expanding the notion of post-secondary success to include strong vocational training programs that graduate students with rigorous industry-recognized cre­dentials and prepare them for the workforce – or postsecondary education.

Madison Park is reimagining its program­ming under new leadership and additional resources that come with its “turnaround school” designation. The academic and vocational teachers work­ing in concert to integrate academic and vocational learning in classes for students will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of that effort.

More can be done to sow the seeds for more career, vocational, and technical education pathways that concentrate on diverse industries.

In East Boston, JetBlue is exploring aviation pathways for students through the JetBlue Foundation, launched in 2013 to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education with a focus on traditionally underserved communities. The foundation has built relationships nationwide through mentoring, internships, and grants, and learned these successful partnerships have benefits far beyond our sector.

Boston’s successful initiative to expand arts education also provides opportunities to link students to pathways in creative industries such as media and visual communications and entertainment technology.

Working in partnership with industry leaders who are investing in our city is the way to develop pathways that benefit students, grow the local workforce, and attract new businesses to our region.

Laura Perille is CEO of EdVestors, a Boston nonprofit focused on accelerating improvement in urban schools, which is providing seed funds to promote career, vocational, and technical education partnerships in Boston. Joanna Geraghty is President of the JetBlue Foundation and executive vice president for customer experience at JetBlue.

2 replies on “Bringing the real world into the classroom”

  1. A report from Northeastern University, “The Critical Importance of Vocational Education In The Commonwealth,” is worth reading: “One-third of the state’s 351 communities are not served by (regional vocational) programming of any kind. Meanwhile, participating towns are required to approve funding for their regional (vocational) schools—funding that comes out of their own school budgets, setting up a competition for students and scarce dollars that tends to keep many of the regional schools in a fiscal straightjacket. Making their fiscal balancing act even more difficult, (regional vocational) schools are typically 50 percent more expensive to run than traditional high schools because in addition to classroom space, they must provide up-to-date equipment, materials, and safety apparatus for their occupational programs.” So, vocational technical high school “funding…comes out of” the local public school budget and typically is 50% “more expensive to run than traditional high schools.” Why weren’t those facts mentioned in this commentary?

  2. I looked up EdVestors’ IRS Form 990 to find the amount of seed funds it provides “to promote career, vocational, and technical education partnerships in Boston.” In FY2014 contributions and grants came to $1,197,000 or about $125,840 more than it pays its employees in salaries and benefits. In FY2013 the contributions and grants given in pursuit of its nonprofit stated goal came to $1,019,000 or just $16,375 more than it gave its employees. This is an opportunity to consider the role funding plays in public education. Our schools can either rely on nonprofits dangling short money in front to make marginal changes or cities like Boston can fully fund their schools to ensure each child receives the education required by the state’s constitution and the state can fully fund the Foundation Budget.

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