IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Educators, businesses and parents must work together to ensure today's students have the skills they'll need as part of tomorrow's workforce.

 
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TEACHERS DO IMPORTANT WORK, BUT THEY CANT DO IT ALONE. Businesses need to play a role. Beyond the traditional financial support, they can provide the real-life experiences that reinforce and shape lesson plans. Business North Carolina magazine recently gathered a panel of education experts to discuss how businesses can help and where their impact is felt most.

The discussion, hosted by Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University's James B. Hunt Jr. Library, was moderated by Ben Kinney, Business North Carolina publisher. Support was provided by IBM, RTI International and Caterpillar. Transcript was edited for brevity and clarity.

HOW CAN BUSINESSES REACH STUDENTS?

SULLIVAN North Carolina Business Committee for Education's focus has been work-based learning for almost 10 years. Its Students at Work program hosted about 34,000 middle-schoolers in March. They shadowed jobs at local businesses and learned about careers from businesses that visited their schools. Career technical education needs rebranding and promotion. Students are missing its great courses because they don't know about them. CTE is different than it was 30 years ago. Its teachers have relationships with local businesses. It would be great to have IBM, for example, work with traditional and CTE teachers, blending classrooms and opening the eyes of college-track students to CTE offerings. You have to keep learning. That doesn't mean you return to college or high school but continue gathering skills and experiences.

SAGE Caterpillar works with schools in many ways. Sometimes students are shown the equipment we manufacture, such as a mining truck that can carry 97 Ford Explorer SUVs. That brings STEM alive. Everybody thinks we're welders and machinists, but we hire technology folks, too. We've built autonomous mining machines for years. We're returning jobs to the U.S., but assembly and machining labor is in short supply. Those jobs require computer skills, too.

BONEY More businesses statewide are repeating what I first heard a decade ago: Educators must prepare people for jobs, technology and problems that don't exist yet. We used to have an idea of where the economy would be in five years. Now, a two-year prediction is tough. I was recently talking to Jud Bowman, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Durham-based Sift Media Inc., and he doesn't want to hire coders or accountants. He wants people who will solve the problems he doesn't know about yet.

PIERRIE We run Summer STEM, which immerses teachers in STEM businesses. They learn about project-based learning, which emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. Employers want workers who can do all those. That means classrooms must support that learning, so students can rehearse problem-solving skills with teacher support.

PEARSON IBM has helped...

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