Workforce Readiness issues abound in our state in the current economy and the opportunities for education in this area are significant for anyone willing to take action. I recently had the pleasure of discussing this matter with Paul Sandrock, the Assistant Team Director of Content and Learning for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Assuming that I was going to talk with Paul about the New Wisconsin Promise and nothing more was ignorant to say the least. I didn’t even scratch the surface of all of the various initiatives and task forces that are underway in the badger state.
The focal point is the New Wisconsin Promise. This program is aimed at providing the educational building blocks for our K-12 students in the state that will be required in our businesses and industries for years to come. No one needs to remind HR professionals about the impending crisis facing industry (manufacturing and service-based) as regards the skills inventory of our workforce. As Baby Boomers retire, Generations X and Y need to fill their shoes…will they be able to do this?
The New Wisconsin Promise focuses on six main educational themes:
- Ensuring quality teachers in the classroom
- Improving student achievement with an emphasis on reading levels at or above grade level
- Investing in early learning environments such as four-year-old kindergarten and preschool
- Increasing parental and community involvement in classrooms
- Advancing career and technical education to engage additional students
- Providing effective pupil services to reduce the barriers to success currently found in the system
The direct tie to our business community is through Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. (CWI). CWI is an association of representatives from business, academia, labor, and government entities with a core mission of promoting public policy in the area of creating high paying jobs within the state. The need for a highly-educated workforce with the appropriately aligned skills is a critical development in this organization’s goals.
Closing the achievement gap is a priority in the DPI and the task forces formed are formidable. If our future is devoid of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, it will not be for lack of effort. Visit www.wistem.org for further information on a grass-roots approach to developing a clearing-house for all information related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math with regards to education, employment, and career activities in the state.
According to the Wisconsin Next Generation Manufacturing Survey – a project of WMEP – one of the targeted success attributes for successful companies in the next decades will be a focus on Customer-Focused Innovation. Where will this innovation come from? An excellent resource may be the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education. Yes, this is about music and art in our schools, but the intellectual activity that is creativity is also a focus. You can find some very thought provoking information at http://www.creative.wisconsin.gov/
. From here, you can also investigate the efforts being made in entrepreneurial literacy. How do we teach our young students about risk taking, ambiguity in life and commerce, the attitudes that are pioneering in industry, etc.? These are all critical elements in the 21st Century economy.
And finally, you can be a part of this process in the Designing High Schools for Success (found at www.highschool4success.org). This component of the New Wisconsin Promise is looking for advocacy assistance from the business community. Our employers are a major stakeholder in these efforts and our HR community can accept a greater amount of responsibility in this development of our future.
Workforce Readiness is not a topic of discussion reserved for state conferences and quarterly meetings, but rather is a focal point for daily and weekly action right in your communities and schools. These resources are but a fraction of those that are out there asking for our energy and input. Your involvement can and will make a dramatic impact on our state for generations to come.