Ensuring workforce preparedness one student at a time
Recently, I had two moms of Next Generation Scholars approach me during our first Saturday Learning Experience at Frostburg State University. One said she wants her daughter to find something she loves and the other told me her daughter has no idea what she wants to do.
These comments really resonated with me because as a parent, I’m like all of you: I want the best for my child. As an educator, I’m like all of the teachers, counselors, staff and leadership in Maryland’s schools: I want the best for your child. These sentiments hold true for all of us at Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, which for the past 25 years has worked at both a system-wide and a grassroots level to leverage the expertise of the business community in support of education excellence and to shape Maryland’s future workforce and leaders.
When the state announced its Next Generation Scholars program, MBRT knew we had to be part of this important initiative. We’re already aligned with the Maryland State Department of Education and participate in a number of the governor’s workforce groups. We also have been deploying the workforce in each of the 24 school districts throughout the state reaching 30,000 students thanks to more than 500 volunteers and full-time staff who boast an education and/or corporate background.
Most importantly, what drew us to Next Generation Scholars was the prospect of continuing to play an active role in supporting excellence and accountability in K-12 education on a deeper level. Now, we are furthering our mission and connecting more personally with students and engaging with families like yours. I believe education is not a privilege; it’s a right. At MBRT, we believe all children—regardless of their situation—deserve the opportunity to graduate from high school as college- and career-ready.
Our way of doing this at MBRT is to make students aware of and prepare them for the possibilities that await them. School counselors are doing a great job of this already, but due to budget constraints and increased demands related to students’ home-social issues, their efforts can be pulled from focusing on students’ futures to attending to what’s happening right now. That’s why we partner with them to ensure Next Generation Scholars have someone dedicated to providing the knowledge, skills and tools needed to succeed after high school graduation.
Our coordinators (Aundra Anderson [Kent], Lisa Beyer [Dorchester], Adel Boyd [Wicomico], Morgan Cox [Caroline] and Carrie Pannone [Allegany]) have been meeting one-on-one with Next Generation Scholars while also conducting classroom presentations to mentor them and assess their college and career aspirations. Some of those presentations feature guest speakers from the Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau and STEM Specialists in the Classroom programs as well as our immersive Saturday Learning Experiences at local colleges and universities.
Through this continued exposure, MBRT is introducing your child to career fields they may have never known existed and providing more in-depth background beyond what can be gleaned from YouTube and other digital media. There is tremendous value in giving children the chance to see and experience first-hand so they start to imagine what they want to do and also realize what they have to do in order to accomplish their goals.
In addition, our coordinators are consistently reinforcing that today’s competitive global workforce demands a diverse skillset and flexibility, and that for those who wish to have an exciting and prosperous career, higher education is required. Data shows while there is job growth with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree can provide more stable growth and both degrees provide better opportunity than a high school diploma alone. For example, by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school, according to a report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Every child is different, which is why there are different pathways offered. MBRT and Next Generation Scholars are here to help guide students to achieve the future they imagine for themselves.