Preparing students for the 21st century workforce: A new model of collaboration in New York City

The following is a post from Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft.

As educators grapple with the kind of disruptive change that is prompting businesses in every sector to redefine “workforce-ready,” creative new approaches to public education are gaining momentum. Governments, corporations and non-profits are working together in the spirit of true 21st century collaboration in communities around the world. And these coalitions are making a difference in ways traditional approaches to public education simply can’t.

Today, I’m proud to share that Microsoft is taking part in one such effort, the creation of a “9-14” education model in New York City. Working together with the NYC Department of Education, City University of New York and New York Presbyterian Hospital, we are developing a school, scheduled to open in fall 2014, which will specialize in preparing students for a job in information technology. The program enables students to earn associate degrees while still in high school, ensuring they enter the workforce — or go on to earn a bachelor’s degree — with the right set of skills to succeed in their chosen field.

This school, part of New York City Schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) High Schools with Early College program, will join other new schools supported by public/private partnerships, with programs in fields as diverse as advertising and marketing, and information security analysis. The efforts have gained national recognition, with President Obama lauding the City’s first 9-14 high school as a national model worthy of replication in his 2013 State of the Union address.

While the program is still relatively small (there will be six such schools in all by next fall), I believe that the New York Department of Education is at the forefront of a new wave in education reform. Against a backdrop of the typical challenges facing large school systems, they are finding innovative ways to bring speedy and meaningful reform to their schools. How? By collaborating with the very organizations that have the most to gain from a well-equipped workforce, and by focusing on STEM education.

These efforts – and others like them – couldn’t come at a more critical time, as companies’ workforce needs are rapidly (and drastically) diverging from traditional school curricula. In fact, earlier this summer, the issue was at the center of the @Microsoft Conversation on Education in Washington, D.C., where a panel of education thought leaders examined the specific type of STEM skills required for 21st century jobs, which are essential to keep the US competitive.

The truth is, with our global economy changing at hyper-speed, and with most future jobs related to long-undervalued STEM subjects, it will take exactly this kind of collaboration to reinvent our schools. We see examples of creative collaboration every day through the Partners in Learning network, where educators share resources and inspiration; and in our YouthSpark programs, which empower youth through greater opportunities for education. Each of these efforts enlists all concerned parties, all working together to solve a critical and growing challenge: getting our students ready to lead in a new economy. And every one of them is a step in the right direction.

Read more in the NYC Department of Education’s press release.