A non-profit project to help students from rural areas and boost the workforce has made its way to Abilene. The Collegiate Edu-Nations Rural Hope Project helps students achieve success by partnering with local schools and businesses within rural communities.
While a noisy construction site may not seem like the ideal place for high school students, local nonprofit unCommon Construction (uCC) sees it as the perfect classroom. Offering construction apprenticeships through local high schools, uCC teaches students how to build houses while fostering life skills such as leadership, teamwork and professional work ethic.
When the Catalyze Challenge launched more than a year ago, the idea was to eschew isolated grants and create an “innovation engine” for funding and refining new learning models that help more students move from education to career. A big goal was to identify gaps in what was already out there.
Common Group CEO, George Vinton, discusses the challenges of gathering buy-in from both employers and students in an interview with Paul Fain.
The Catalyze Challenge is a promising and active joint venture with some pretty big names – non-profit American Student Assistance (ASA), Arnold Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, the Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The venture – the Challenge – has parted with $10 million in funding so far to support education innovations, including their most recent round of more than $5 million to 25 organizations and initiatives nationwide.
The ecosystem from the classroom to the workforce is in desperate need of investment and accountability. I’ve seen career and technical education (CTE) programs prepare students for high demand careers, but once young adults develop the real-world skills, there is no tangible bridge to continue to engage their passions via a first or second internship to build a career pathway.
Employers, outside organizations, schools and legislative leaders all have a crucial role to play if we are to dismantle the economic inequality chasm that begins in high school and further deepens throughout a person’s lifetime earnings. Too many brilliant young adults without college degrees remain stagnant, often job-hopping from one low-wage job to the next because society refuses to develop opportunities that could result in high-demand, high-skill and high-wage occupations.
Programs like IBM’s earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs, where the company moves employees without college degrees up the economic ladder, and recent investments like the Walton Family Foundation’s Catalyze Challenge to help expand career-connected learning are essential to reimagine the education to workforce ecosystem. Investing in innovative organizations that are transforming the approaches and platforms that help students navigate into meaningful careers and to move beyond the traditional construct of study-then-work to a study-and-work approach provides more opportunity to connect young adults to rewarding jobs.