About 200 people came together Friday, February 12, 2015, at the Delmarva Power Conference Center in Newark Delaware, to take the first steps in developing an integrated “Pathways to Prosperity” education and training system to prepare young people for high paying careers that may not require a college degree.
The attendees of the morning-long event were from Delaware education, business (primarily manufacturing), and government (primarily the Delaware Department of Labor, and the Delaware Workforce Development Board).
Delaware Governor Jack Markell opened the session with comments reflective of his recently completed State-of-the State Address.
“We need to recognize that jobs will be created where entrepreneurs can find a workforce with the abilities they need to grow and succeed,” he said. “Pathways to Prosperity program will develop career pathways that prepare students with skills in high-growth, high demand fields.”
Gov. Markell said the concept of pathways is where there is a partnership between employers, colleges, and school districts.
He likened the business environment to a second industrial revolution because the role of human labor has changed with the advent of new high-tech inventions.
One of the challenges facing an initiative like Pathways to Prosperity is the scale, because there are small groups doing many things, but none big enough to have an overall impact, the governor said.
“Nobody has figured this out in a big way,” he said. “But we have to.”
Professor Bob Schwartz, a nationally recognized Pathways expert from Harvard University, echoed the governor’s remarks, but first gave the audience some sobering data.
“As a minimum, every student must have a high school diploma,” Prof. Schwartz said, “In 1960 the U.S. led the world in high school graduation, but the rest of the world has caught up.”
The U.S. is now 13th in high school diplomas, he said.
Jobs of the future don’t necessarily need a college degree, he said, but to get a good high paying middle job will require sine kind of combination of education and certificate training.
Prof. Schwartz said the big problem was almost one-third of all Americans have neither a high school diploma nor an advanced certificate.
“The big question is,” he said. “What is the strategy for people with no certificate.”
That question permeated the rest of the day as members of the conference moved to different breakout groups to get a better understanding about pathways as they related to:
- Manufacturing Logistics
- Computer Science
- Engineering and Biomedical Programs
- Culinary and Hospitality
Even though there was no single solution to the massive question proposed by the professor, the group made inroads to developing a system that could help preparing students.
And even though this was the first time the Pathways to Prosperity had gotten such a large airing, it was not the first time Delaware, business, educators, and workforce developers had worked together.
“Delaware is the state that broke the record for moving from discussion to action,” Prof. Schwartz said.