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Closing the communication gap between high school, college and career

    • Closing the High School-College-Employer Communications Gap    

      Marie Prendergast, Founding Principal of the High School for Youth and Community Development, NYC Department of Education

      The recent op-ed featured on the Working Nation website, “Closing the college-employer communications gap,” by Carol D’Amico and Bridget Burns has prompted me to explore how this communication continuum can be extended back to secondary schools and even further back, to primary schools. In our current state of education, which is right now completely determined by COVID 19 (and perhaps COVID 20, 21…?) we have an opportunity and an imperative to dramatically strengthen and make coherent, our lines of communication through curricular planning and pedagogy across all areas and grades. This communication requires a reorganization designed and guided by a comprehensive fusion of liberal arts and career skill development. In communicating this reorganization and restructuring of how we do school, we must also strengthen and make coherent our case for doing this with our student-consumers of education credentials.

      But first, we have to confront the overwhelming inequities that this pandemic has laid bare. The good news is that the adults in this “we” (educators like me, policy makers, corporate, community and political leaders) do not have to figure this out on our own. In fact we must not. The challenges embedded in inequities can be developed as part of the comprehensive, problem-based, liberal arts entwined, skilling-up curriculum that we need to plan in partnership with students and implement in education-at all levels of schooling.

      If the educational-employer communication  continuum is to work, we must begin with vastly expanding and improving our access to high speed internet connectivity. This is part of Tom Friedman’s post-pandemic guidance. His reference to an “innovation economy” and his profile on the crowdsourcing platform, Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), (Thomas L. Friedman; “Post-Pandemic, Here’s How America Rises Again,” New York Times, April 15, 2020, Section A, page 22) holds tremendous promise for how we design problem-based learning that is anchored by solid liberal arts skill and knowledge development in schools. In our school, (The High School for Youth and Community Development at Erasmus Hall), our students began conceiving and designing a mini society to serve as a matrix for defining and problem solving around real-world dilemmas within a school setting that will eventually branch out to intern-based learning in an employer setting. Our students’ efforts have been put on hold temporarily as we learn to navigate remote learning but they are in the process of picking up where they left off.

      If I have learned anything in my role as a secondary school leader, students must have a central voice in their own education, especially now that they have been catapulted into remote learning. Students know what they want from schools and the adults who inhabit schools and the systems that regulate schools. If we want to reduce the perception gap in workforce readiness between employer and burgeoning employee, we must talk to that student/future employee and plan their learning with them through ongoing problem solving experiences and processes that will develop their workforce readiness. Ongoing learning and development applies to adults as well. We also need student insights to support professional learning for adults. The mind shifting needed to strengthen communications in this continuum of learning and doing, from all stages of school to employment and career, is contingent upon this deep and consistent level of collaboration between adults and young people.


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