01 Dec 2017
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2017 in Education: Investing in the Next Generation of Workers

by Amy McIntosh (MBA 1984) , associate vice chancellor for academic strategy, The City University of New York

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Business needs to care about the performance of students in the public education system, from preschool through college. It is the primary source of future employees for every business. It’s also where the vast majority of teachers of their future employees will come from. And public education will provide the diversity of employees that most leading businesses now recognize they need to be globally competitive.

There are two trends in the United States that should be of interest to the business world. First, there is an increase in publicly funded preschool programs, which prepare students for a successful educational experience in later years. And second, there is a new “culture of completion” in higher education, in which institutions are focusing on improving graduation rates for all students. Smart business leaders should support these efforts.

Business has been an ally of education reform in the past, but now, as the issue becomes more polarized, we need to engage in new ways. Take, for instance, the skills gap. In our current low- unemployment environment, businesses are having trouble filling middle-skills jobs. To remedy this, some businesses are partnering with public colleges to develop programs to meet specific needs. There is still some distrust on both sides: Higher education institutions see their mission as instilling skills for lifelong learning, not to pursue a good salary, and businesses can be daunted by the complexity of working with universities. But in states such as New York, California, and Tennessee, we are seeing meaningful partnerships, to the benefit of both the students and the economy.

What’s next in education?

“Technology has the potential to profoundly change education. The question mark is if high-quality, engaging online education can scale. Offerings such as MOOCs (massive open online courses) have wide reach but relatively low engagement, while approaches that offer faculty interaction result in high engagement but don’t scale. The answer may lie in shifting attention to the “demand side” rather than just focusing on faculty and courses (the supply side)—for example, enabling the power of peer-to-peer learning. Done right, this could revolutionize education.”
—Professor Bharat Anand

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Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1984, Section I
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