Big Companies Create School Partnerships To Meet Demand for Workers

Finding workers with the right skills isn't an easy task for some of the leading companies in the United States. To address shortfalls, some of these big companies are teaming up with local governments to develop schools that can train the next generation of American workers, writes Dan Alexander in Forbes.

General Electric formed a partnership with the city of Cleveland to create the MC2 STEM High School. Under the program, students get training at GE Lighting's corporate campus. The company's employees serve as mentors, and students get practical experience creating lights and working with high-tech manufacturing machines.

The MC2 STEM High School was founded in 2008 and its graduation rate is 95% compared to just 60% in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District a whole.

In South Carolina, technical schools have partnerships with dozens of companies, including Timken, Michelin, Caterpillar and Coca-Cola. Additionally, BMW partnered with community colleges near its South Carolina plant to create an apprenticeship program. The first class of 14 BMW Scholars graduated in 2012, and all of them were given full-time jobs.

"I will be your No. 1 employee," South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told BMW executives last year. "My job is to make sure you're successful. My job is to bring in the suppliers that you need, that we continue to have the trained workforce that you need, and together we will make sure that we are continuing to make great, quality cars."

In a partnership with the city of New York, IBM in Brooklyn created the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, where students earn both high school diplomas and associates degrees at graduation. President Barack Obama visited the school in October and called it a model for the nation.

"Businesses have got to be engaged in partnering with educators to be sure that people are trained to succeed in the 21st century economy," said Harvard Business School professor Jan Rivkin. "Historically, when business was rooted in local areas they had very strong incentives to make sure the schools, suppliers, infrastructure and pools of skilled labor in those locations were very strong. But when you can move from place to place, incentives for reinvesting in any place are going to decrease."

According to Rivkin, companies are risking their own future when they become nomads hunting for the best tax breaks without investing in local economies. Companies must expand globally while investing locally.

Some foreign companies, including Germany's ThyssenKrupp, are offering innovative worker-training programs at their U.S. facilities. ThyssenKrupp started a program during the depths of the recession that sends its American engineers to Germany and its European ones to the US. ThyssenKrupp wants its employees to be better prepared for working with co-workers across the Atlantic and suppliers all over the world.

"You have to be successful internationally," said Fabian Schmahl, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America. "If you want to succeed as a company, you have to think a little bigger. You have to be bold in what you do, and you've got to take some risks."

12 18, 2013
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