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If education were a business – would you remain a loyal customer?

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

In these challenging economic times, students, parents and employers, the customers of the public education system are questioning why they should remain loyal to a system that is not producing skilled career and/or college ready citizens for their tax dollars. They are questioning the return on their hundreds of thousands of lifetime education investment. Customer loyalty can withstand a few negatives; too many will break down the strength of the connection and have them looking for other service providers.

The State of Youth Education

According to ACT’s findings for 2022, more than 40 percent of seniors did not meet any “of the college-readiness benchmarks.” Conversely, only 22 percent of 2022 high-school senior test takers met “all four benchmarks” linked to the academic disciplines the ACT tests: science, reading, math, and English. Unfortunately, students who graduated high school this year performed worse on the ACT standardized test on average than any previous class for the past 30 years, in yet another sign of the lingering toll of pandemic-era school shutdowns.

We are not meeting the education needs of our youth. The Stats and Facts summarizes the current state of 63% of high school graduates enrolled in college and 53% of recent college graduates unemployed or underemployed. In other words, they spent four years of challenging work for their degrees only to end up in a job they could have gotten right out of high school without student loan debt.

Education has become increasingly irrelevant to the majority our young citizen’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy will create 50.6 million job openings over the decade, and only 27.1 percent will require a college degree. We are educating students in a system which was designed for a world that no longer exists. Parent’s and employers are dealing with an academic paradigm that everyone should go to college to get ahead.

In a competitive world what organization could stay in business if it produced a products or service that did not meet the needs and expectations of its customers.

What needs to change

High schools, according to critics, are not doing enough to equip students for life post-graduation and in-demand careers. According to the EconoTimes , two out of five employers believe school and college graduates are unprepared for employment. One-third of employers are dissatisfied with the relevant work experience young people have. Only 5% of individuals in the United States believe high school graduates are well equipped for employment, and only 13% believe college graduates are well prepared. Yet we still score high schools on the percent (%) of graduates attending college. That scoring needs to change.

We design curriculum’s as if everyone will go to college. We base our teaching on memory skills. We teach our students what to think – while not preparing them to be successful in a competitive job market. Employers need and want students who are critical thinkers who can work in teams no matter what social economic background they come to be capable of achieving their own American Dream. We must teach students how to think.

New collar jobs are “middle skill” jobs requiring a high school diploma, foundations of reading, math and science along with some additional training offered by an apprenticeship/certification programs. The academic paradigm emphasizes intellectual knowledge; the new education paradigm emphasizes know-how and skills.

Now more than ever, students need an education focused on employable skills and learning that works to make their personal American Dream a reality.

Call for Action

A skilled career-ready workforce is essential for a vibrant U.S. economy and society. We have proven solutions on hand. What is needed is the rapid scaling of CTE in every county of the U.S. We have Career Technical Education programs that successfully engage students, make education relevant and rigorous. They supplement academics with career-based classroom learning, real-world workplace experience and personalized student support.

To accomplish this goal, we must shift the underlying national educational narrative, explained Doug Berger, founder of Industry Reimagined 2030. Today’s narrative in based in the post-World War II and the 1950s. Our society at that time was one of aspiration – one of upwards mobility. Our existing education narrative is “education success is the score against academic standards.” This is the metric to evaluate students, teachers and schools.

The authors propose a transformative narrative: education fulfills the potential of each youth and prepares them as career-ready citizens. This narrative would make education relevant and engaging for each student. It would ignite the passion of teachers. It would encourage parents. It would bring a dynamism to every community.

Teachers believe that an effort to improve career-and-technical curricula would engage more students in learning and better equip them for the high-demand occupations and adaptability that the future will need. Even the college curriculum is not focused enough on offering the sort of learning that will better prepare students for life after graduation. Eight years after their expected graduation data, students who focused on career and technical education courses while in high school had higher median annual earnings that students who did not.

To remedy this situation employers must join in public-private partnerships with schools to make K-12 education more relevant by teaching students the value of a proven work ethic and a desire to continuously learn new skills supplemented with credentialing, apprenticeships, a post-secondary education, or a degree as needed to do the job.

Following a year of pandemic induced school closures. Every community should prudently invest their slice of the $122 billion coronavirus aid fund (much is still not spent) for K-12 CTE programs and schools. If wisely invested, these funds can transform the current education system and close the existing achievement gap by offering students new educational opportunities and options to graduate with career-ready credentials in the school of their choice.

To achieve these goals, educators and business leaders must form public-private collaborative partnerships to become actively engaged in reinventing the educational experience by graduating skilled career ready students from all levels of our education system.

Let us make “Made in America” and the “America Dream” a reality for ALL our students and the communities they live in.


Glenn Marshall (retired) is a former Newport News Shipbuilding Career Pathway Volunteer. He now serves on the Industry Reimagined 2030 team, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team initiative for a “Manufacturing Renaissance,” he also is a member of the Reshoring Initiative, Job Creators Network. Contact Glenn:

Doug Berger is founder of Industry Reimagined 2030, a non-profit committed to transforming our established U.S. competitiveness and workforce ecosystems through unprecedented collaboration and scaling of proven, effective solutions. They are bringing about a sea-change in our collective narrative from a prevailing worldview of ‘inevitable decline’ to one of ‘vibrant opportunity.’

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