Investing in the future: Partnering with education

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by Katrina Kersch

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce states, “The business community is the number one consumer of the public education system and therefore must be an involved and engaged stakeholder in the education of America’s children.”

It is not unusual to hear employers talk about partnerships with education as having no real return on investment (ROI). I have personally heard the following statements from employers:

  • “I attended three career fairs and saw no results.”
  • “I’m just trying to run a business and do not have the resources to engage with schools.”
  • “I wish education would just do its job and prepare students to become part of the workforce.”

For years, some contractors focused on competing with those in their own industry for workers. Today, with the shifts in population and an aging workforce, contractors must realize that they are competing with a vast array of industries for workers. Technology, service, energy and manufacturing all face serious shortages.

 What is the role of industry?

If the purpose of education is to prepare students for the future, be that college or a career, what role does industry play in making that a reality? Why should contractors focus on career and technical education? The answer is because failing to do so will place our industry in jeopardy. A construction project’s success depends on our ability to provide a quality product, on time and within budget. These three factors are largely dependent on our ability to gain new workers and on the skills of the craft professional.

Great craft professionals are not born in a classroom listening to a lecture; they are cultivated, motivated and mentored. They are inspired by interacting with professionals within the industry. We ignite a passion by participating in hands-on experiences in which a future craft professional uses tools, completes a project and begins to understand the relationship between education and a future career.

In the business world, we look for the ROI in the resources we expend, and investing in the future sometimes requires vision that does not immediately translate to the bottom line. An investment of our time, talent and resources to partner with education means that our industry is willing to invest in our own future.

About the author: Katrina Kersch is Senior Director and Chief Operations Officer of the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This article is reprinted with permission from Breaking Ground: The NCCER Blog.

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