Much has changed in the last 20 years, but one of the biggest changes, in my opinion, has been the path to achieve the American Dream. Just a few short months ago we faced a collapsing economy and a world forever altered by a global pandemic. But now, we confront the incongruous reality that employers are hiring, but can’t find enough qualified applicants. These shifts require educators and employers to strengthen the links between our economic development systems and our educational systems. It is our collective responsibility to forge new paths that better prepare students for work in our rapidly evolving world.
In my home state of Delaware, the Department of Education (DoE) has partnered with one of our state’s biggest employers, DuPont, to develop a first-of-its-kind partnership that better equips young people with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in our new economy. At the heart of this effort is employer and student voice. As the DoE began to consider how to transform the state’s education system to help students better develop the academic, technical, and employability skills needed for in-demand jobs, we recognized that the insights of those we wanted to serve-employers like DuPont and young people- were necessary.
We began this unique effort through a series of meetings that helped to define our common goals, what resources we could bring to this project, and what sort of outside support we would need for success. Most importantly, we made decisions on who we wanted to impact.
While that seems like an obvious thing to agree upon, in my experience, the “who?” of a partnership is sometimes left behind or not fully understood. For that reason, it was important to identify exactly those whom we wanted our partnership to benefit from and that we incorporate their voice in the design of the solution. During our discussions, we learned that DuPont is literally creating new and innovative technologies and products that did not exist yesterday. These advancements are essential to Delaware’s future competitiveness and the nation’s overall economic health, they also help to paint a more realistic picture of advanced manufacturing in America, research science, and the costal wonder that is the Delmarva Peninsula. And when we spoke to educators and youth, they expressed that they wanted access to flexible digital resources that showcased these innovations and could be easily integrated into existing lessons, which in the COVID era are being delivered online and in the classroom.
These discussions were among the most important facets of this effort. With our “who?” firmly identified, we were able to move forward with our “how?”
Working closely with our third partner, Discovery Education, DuPont, and the DoE were able to craft an initiative that today is providing middle and high school educators and students with access to high-quality digital resources and tools. Teachers are, in turn, using these tools to focus on student growth and promote employer connection. To increase student STEM and employability skills, we are integrating digital content, lesson delivery, and reflective practice within existing career pathway programs that are offered across the state. This includes tagging Discovery Education learning content to state standards and learning competencies in our STEM and CTE programs and making these resources available to middle and high school students and educators at no cost through our statewide learning management system or Schoology.
This initiative also includes professional learning for educators and other school-based staff that focuses on content delivery and instructional strategies. To support employer engagement, we are leveraging the STEM Careers Coalition, which includes employers like DuPont, to expand career awareness and exploration opportunities for youth. This includes employer-facilitated lessons, virtual field trips, and other types of virtual work-based learning opportunities.
I believe firmly in the importance, and power, of public-private partnerships. Together, the Delaware Department of Education, DuPont, and Discovery Education are helping to bridge our education, workforce, and economic development systems in a way that is benefitting both our students and our economy. And it all started with “Who?”
Written by Luke Rhine, Associate Secretary of Education, Delaware Department of Education
Associate Secretary of Education Luke Rhine can be contacted at Luke.Rhine@doe.k12.de.us. To learn more about this partnership, click this link or email deleducators@Discoveryed.com.