Last week, we debuted the Brilliant Blog by laying out the dramatic changes to the K-16 landscape and the issues facing students, teachers and higher education in general. This week, we offer some innovative ideas based on six pillars we have found to be effective in some key areas, starting with corporate and college partnerships.

Collaborating with businesses. Students cannot be what they cannot see: A student who has never met a software designer, a surgeon, or an attorney is unlikely to become one. This is why business partnerships can be so valuable. Businesses can offer students job-shadowing and internship opportunities, help them see pathway connections, and provide in-kind and direct support to both schools and students.

But the benefits of school/business partnerships go both ways: Schools can provide businesses access to their future workforce and help businesses build goodwill in their communities, while improved schools help area businesses recruit and retain employees.

The forms of career education that businesses provide are as varied as the businesses themselves:

  • Southwest Airlines teamed up with CFES for Aviation Day to educate students across rural New York State about the growing number of good-paying jobs in the airline industry and how to prepare for them. During Aviation Day, Southwest organized activities tailored to different grade levels. These included aviation charades and leadership lessons based on the experiences of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to fly solo in the U.S.; a paper-airplane-making contest; a personal branding lesson in which students created a personal brand statement; and information sessions about opportunities in the airline industry.
  • Another corporate partner, Colgate Palmolive, annually enlists three dozen of its employees to share their different routes to college and career. TransPerfect employees also serve as mentors in six CFES schools in New York City, Florida, and Hawaii. Several local banks, including Champlain National, share tips with parents and students on paying for college.

These impactful programs have introduced hundreds of students to dream jobs they didn’t know existed and showed them how to start preparing for these careers. Business collaborations such as these can go a long way toward narrowing the gap between the growing number of promising jobs, especially in STEM, and the shortage of people qualified to fill them.

  1. Collaborating with colleges. College partnerships can open doors for students who have never been exposed to the college experience by providing students with role models, mentors, and information on college preparation, the application process, and more, while schools provide colleges with service and training opportunities for their students, as well as a pipeline of potential future students. Colleges can help cultivate career-path readiness in a number of areas:
  • Financial literacy: College partners can educate students on ways to pay for college (grants, scholarships, loans, etc.) and navigate the financial aid process (FAFSA completion, etc.).
  • College admissions guidance: College partners can offer guidance on timelines for applying to college and steps required for admissions, such as college research, application deadlines, financial aid and scholarship applications, planning for college, required courses, and test scores.
  • Introducing college terminology: College partners can familiarize students with essential college vocabulary (major, minor, loan, merit scholarship, athletic scholarship, etc.).
  • Engaging families: Building relationships and trust among families, particularly those that may be dubious that higher education, is essential for preparing students for success.
  • Increasing retention: Colleges can proactively take steps to ensure students succeed in college and attain degrees on time—this can begin long before students start college.

Here are examples of the different ways that postsecondary partners can help students become college-ready:

College Visits and Meetings
To become college-ready, students need frequent exposure to college—the earlier the better. Visiting college campuses, either in person or virtually, allows students to see themselves as college-bound while giving them the knowledge to make informed decisions about where to apply and ultimately enroll. Here are some of the many ways schools working with CFES have brought the college experience to their students.

Students get excited about potential careers when they visit companies like electric airplane innovator Beta Technologies  

Each year, 15,000 CFES students in grades 3-12 spend time on college campuses where they take tours, engage with college students, and meet with financial aid representatives, admissions administrators, and teaching faculty. A large-scale initiative to introduce students to college is the Sophomore Summit, an annual event in which 400 10th grade students from Central New York gather on a college campus for a day. Higher education leaders meet with the students in small groups and in college readiness sessions to introduce the ABCs of college.

  • Alumni days, where high school grads return to their old schools to share insights about college life, are a powerful way of making college feel attainable to underserved students. Alumni days are often held in early January, when college students are still home for the holidays.
  • CFES schools throughout the country celebrate college-readiness for an entire week. Activities include college rallies, college trivia contests, college poster contests, and visits from college students and faculty who talk with students about college life, paying for college, and the admissions process.
  • Every March, seniors from Kohala High School on Hawaii’s Big Island take part in the “Next Steps” meeting with University of Hawaii Hilo admissions and academic advisors to discuss the transition from high school to college.