U.S. Needs New Educational Model for Economic Growth

Linking educators and employers is key to economic recovery and maintaining American global competitiveness.

Teachers and administrators say students are more focused with the shorter week, but critics are skeptical.
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Adopting a new approach to professional apprenticeships enables us to link education to employment in another important way. In Enterprising Pathways: Toward a National Plan of Action for Career and Technical Education coauthors IBM and Opportunity Nation suggest repurposing Federal College Work-Study funds (currently about $1 billion that provides on-campus wages for nearly 1 million college students) to help pay salaries for off-campus jobs that are directly connected to the students' academic majors and intended careers. Replacing "cafeteria work" with meaningful professional apprenticeships with a built-in funding source, these new-model work-study jobs could be in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. But these jobs must be designed to build skills, not just provide funds to pay tuition; they can and should do both. The distinguishing characteristics of these jobs would be the opportunities they would offer for college students to learn relevant skills to advance their learning and careers.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Working together to connect education to careers, educators and employers will help millions of our young people prepare for both higher education and meaningful lifelong employment. The United States has a distinguished history of adapting educational requirements to evolving market demands to maintain a competitive and stable economy. America enacted historic initiatives that increased mandatory education from eighth grade to high school, and later enabled broad access to higher education via the GI Bill. Both were education initiatives that fueled unprecedented economic growth. Just as we did in the past, it is now time for us to invest our efforts and resources in new educational models that will grow the skills of our young people and strengthen America's global competitiveness.

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