It is because of business and industry that we have a system of public education.
While the founding fathers wrote and spoke about the importance of a public education system to ensure a lasting and stable democratic republic, widely available public education did not become a reality until business and industry leaders demanded a workforce with the skills to compete in what was then a rapidly industrializing economy.
And today the stories of systems around the world that have made educational transformations have been places where economic conditions were largely the driving factor.
Consider the case of Singapore, a tiny country with few natural resources, which used education to develop the talents and capacity of its people, building an economic powerhouse.
Or Finland, once considered an uneducated and unhealthy country, that is now a nation of international envy when it comes to economic stability and quality of life.
Closer to home, the ascendance of the state of Massachusetts as an internationally competitive education system was also a story where the business community provided both pressure and support to education in raising the quality of the teaching profession and academic standards.
Economy, community and education are inextricably linked and our futures are joined. 91% of people in the United States were educated in a public school and 74% of college-goers attend a public college or university. Let’s consider the larger outcomes that our American system of education and economy have produced for a moment.
The United States has:
- The largest and most resilient economy in the world, topping over 20 trillion based on the latest data from the International Monetary Fund.
- This is, by far, the most innovative nation on earth. Measuring patents issued between 1977 to 2015—when it comes to new ideas and technology, the U.S. is in a league of its own. It is so far ahead of other competitors, in fact, that many U.S. states eclipse bigger nations.
And the successes are not just economic:
- Even in these times of political unrest, the United States remains one of the most stable democracies in the world and a lighthouse nation to others.
- We boast the most effective and powerful military force on earth.
- Of the top 20 universities in the world, 15 of them are in the United States.
- And when it comes to Nobel prize winners of all kinds, the recipients are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens.
Here in Colorado and in Jeffco, we boast our own economic successes.
- Jefferson County is home to over 8,600 business in 13 different industry clusters, with Healthcare/Wellness and Investment being at the top of the list.
- Colorado has the nation’s second largest aerospace economy, generating over $15 billion each year and ranks 1st for private-sector employment concentration. A growing part of Colorado’s aerospace industry resides in Jefferson County, which has the 2nd highest aerospace economy in the state, accounting for more than 30% of the industry’s total employment in metro Denver.
- Colorado ranked sixth on the 2018 Wallethub list of “Most Innovative States.”
- Over 43.5% of Jefferson County residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, helping position Colorado as the nation’s second-most educated workforce.
- Jefferson County boasts the third highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation.
Ours is a story of remarkable success, resilience, and brilliance and we should take a moment to take stock of these accomplishments.
But we also know that the world has been profoundly and rapidly changing and the goals we set for our education system and our students in the past may not be well aligned to the globally interconnected and lightning-fast world of the future.
Employers have been telling us for some time that our students require not just an education based on simple factual information and content, but an education based on a set of vital skills including creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, communication, collaboration, and self-responsibility.
We, representatives of business and education in Jeffco, recognize the challenge before us. Both our education system and our economic systems need to adapt and change to meet this challenge.
That’s why we are working on a new business/education partnership called Jeffco Career Links, which expands opportunities for students to develop workforce skills through learning that takes place outside of the classroom in our area businesses. Jeffco Career Links creates a menu of available and grade-appropriate career experiences for Jeffco students, as well as a team of professionals to build strong relationships and partnerships between our education and business systems.
We urge Jeffco businesses to contact their local Chamber of Commerce to learn more about how our local students can learn and work in our community. We also urge Jeffco residents to visit their local schools, and see the incredible students and work happening everyday in our schools and community colleges.
Looking ahead, we’re creating even more cohesion, synergy, and opportunities for our students to learn those vital skills necessary to succeed. Through preparing students for this exciting future, we can help keep Jeffco a thriving community for work and life.
Juliet Abdel – Westminster Chamber
Pam Bales – West Chamber
Andy Dorsey – Front Range Community College
Diana Doyle – Arapahoe Community College
Jason Glass – Jeffco Public Schools
Michelle Haney – Red Rocks Community College
Betsy Hays – Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce
Leslie Klane – Golden Chamber of Commerce
Gregg Moss – Metro North Chamber of Commerce
Kristi Pollard – Jeffco Economic Development Corporation
Kami Welch – Arvada Chamber of Commerce