By: Sara E. Choate, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Raise your hand if this feels familiar: outside of extracurriculars or a vocational education program, your K-12 experience was generally consistent with your peers. Historically, throughout the K-12 years, curriculum was established and assigned to you – regardless of individual strengths, passions, or ability to tackle advanced material. Students have mostly received the same material in the same method of classroom instruction and pursuing a potential career field was reserved for the post-high school experience.
If your hand is up, keep it up if that is the same experience you want for your children and loved ones. My guess is, most hands went down. If this was your experience, but you recognize potential opportunities, then I have good news: the education system is evolving.
Whether you choose public, private, or magnet, the opportunities for a more customized K – 12 experience are rich. No two children are alike, and a completely standardized approach to learning and development is evolving into a thing of the past. Through Leadership Springfield, I recently had the opportunity to learn about just some of the opportunities available to students in the Springfield area, and I can assure you that leaders in all areas of the education system are working hard to provide a unique approach that will serve our students and community well. As a parent of a child in a STEAM-based program, I could not love this more. However, as an employer, I recognize that as our education system evolves, so must we.
It’s unfair to expect an entire generation of students who have known nothing but a system of choice to conform overnight to typical business model standards. A more customized education approach should serve employers well – offering them a workforce that is more prepared – with a better idea of what they do want. We heard from an eighth grader, who through the Springfield Public Schools Health Sciences Academy, has discovered that a patient-facing experience isn’t her cup of tea. How amazing is it that she gets to find that out at age 14, as opposed to 20? Yet another, who proudly admitted she joined the program because of Grey’s Anatomy, loved her trauma care experience and plans to pursue a career in patient-facing health care.
As employers, we must engage in conversations with our educational institutions to help identify knowledge and skill gaps. They are working hard to adapt to our needs. In turn, we must be flexible to meet this emerging workforce with opportunities to experience a diverse career path, both within and outside of our organizations. It could mean remote or hybrid work or it could mean allowing for an opportunity to experience a variety of career paths. It will certainly look different than your experience, and while possibly uncomfortable – that’s ok. I do not pretend to have all (or any) of the answers, but I do understand those who choose to adapt and grow with their emerging workforce will reap the rewards.
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