As the Consortium wound up its MAPs (My Action Plan for Success) initiative, we realized many schools in our network needed support providing opportunities for students to explore and prepare for careers. At the same time, it was becoming clear that employers had good reason to help them.
In 2016, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development released a report showing that businesses in our region, some of which already were experiencing hiring difficulties, would see a shortfall of 80,000 workers within a decade as Baby Boomers retired. It made schools and employers seem like a match made in heaven. By working together, they could acquaint students with the region’s expanding job opportunities and help them develop the skills employers were seeking, giving real-world relevance to their classroom work.
Against that backdrop, the Consortium began a series of gatherings among school and business leaders to brainstorm ways employers and educators could work in partnership. In effect, we became their bridge. We developed programs encouraging school/business partnerships and folded them into an initiative we called “Future Ready.” As part of it, we enlisted employers like BNY Mellon, Covestro, DMI Companies, Duquesne Light, Mascaro Construction, PNC Financial Group, UPMC, and others to work with schools in a variety of ways, whether simply introducing their organizations, job opportunities and expectations; mentoring students; or helping them build skills.
The timing was fortuitous. Just as we were cultivating partnerships, the Pennsylvania Department of Education was rolling out standards around which it developed a Future Ready Index. To meet the standards, schools needed to help students document career-learning and skill-building experiences of the kind we envisioned and found too limited when we involved educators in MAPs. Our programming and partnerships helped many schools access them.
The partnerships were informed by some that we forged at our founding, and they laid the foundation for the work we’re advancing today.