Educating the Next Generation

Education is a deep and personal passion of mine. I’ve spent nearly two decades with Capital Area Michigan Works! and have previous experience in a public school district; these experiences have morphed me into an avid advocate for the importance of education. Throughout my career, I’ve seen education open the door for opportunities for many folks, but I’ve also seen the unfortunate side of struggling individuals due to a lack of education. That’s what influences my continuous efforts to keep the conversation about education prevalent and frequent.

The future success of our region lies in the hands of so many people and entities, but particularly our children — our next generation workforce — and their success stems from a quality education.

We often talk about the importance of STEM, (science, technology, engineering and math), and more and more we’re hearing that art needs to be added to the equation, making it STEAM. STEAM disciplines are predicted to be essential for the in-demand occupations in our future economy. We want to prepare children for career paths they would be interested in, but it’s also vital to direct them toward the in-demand occupations so that when they’re ready to join the workforce, there will actually be jobs to fill. Two of the biggest in-demand fields are manufacturing and information technology, which is why there’s a need for the Capital Area Manufacturing Council and Capital Area IT Council.

It seems simple, but one of the easiest ways to help children achieve educational success is by making sure they are in school each day. In Lansing, 23.1 percent of the 12,000 students in the district missed 11 or more days during the 2013-2014 school year, according to the school district. Many students and families are unaware of the impact chronic absenteeism has on a student’s education, beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Parents may not realize accumulated excused absences can cause their children to fall behind. Attendance Works reports that a student who is chronically absent is 7.4 times more likely to drop out. Building the habit of attendance in the early grades can increase a student’s chances of graduating from high school.

Another way to encourage children to succeed in school is by family interaction. Whether it’s talking to your child about how his or her day at school was, reading together, helping your child with homework, encouraging better grades and progress, attending parent-teacher conferences or congratulating a job well done, all of these behaviors make a positive difference.

Businesses can also play a role in preparing their future talent pool. Sounds great, right? After all, every employer wants go-getters and the brightest individuals working for them. To work toward this, talk openly about education; whether it’s publicly or through employee newsletters, every promotional opportunity counts. Keep the discussions wide too, from early education to current employees’ lifelong learning. Starting these conversations at the workplace helps make education a common topic to discuss and will hopefully continue once employees are home with their families.

One or a couple businesses’ efforts aren’t enough. We need all of the region’s businesses to stand up for education. The more businesses that strive for educational success, the more likely it is that our region will attract and retain more talent, helping it become a place where the best and brightest individuals want to live, work and play.


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