By Jason Gaulden, Vice President of Partnerships, America Succeeds
Coming off of a successful initiative in 2018—with the release of our celebrated Age of Agility report and an engaging national tour—the team at America Succeeds is grateful to have been in the right place at the right time to lead the way on bringing the future of work conversation into the education space.
While many economists, futurists—and certainly business leaders—have been sounding the alarm and driving innovative solutions for the pressing skills gap, we noticed that the conversation was not happening with sufficient urgency in education circles.
With that prompting, we set out on a mission to understand the challenges, present the data, and tell the stories about the seismic shifts in how we live, learn, work, and play.
Gathering Data on Evolving Workforce Needs
We talked with companies, both large and small, about the challenges in their talent pipelines. We learned that—given the rapidly changing nature of advanced technology—the misalignment between what the education system teaches and what employers actually need is severe, and getting worse.
However, the new jobs, careers, and industries being generated for well-prepared students and opportunity seekers are tremendous. There is plenty to be excited about in the evolving workforce.
The Age of Agility served as a wake-up call. Now, it seems, people are hearing the alarm loud and clear. Hundreds of stakeholders from across the country are ready to take the next steps. We are thrilled for the energy around this agenda and pleasantly surprised by the impact.
Partnerships with State-Based Advocates Lead to Fresh Ideas for Modernizing Education
In turning our report into a series of interactive summits, we teamed with local partners in each state to bring the right business, education, and policy leaders to the table, plus ensure that the ideas generated at the summits are pursued and executed. We worked with our own affiliates (and PIE Network members) in America Succeeds states: Aligned in Kansas and Missouri, Oklahoma Achieves, Arkansas Learns, and Idaho Business for Education. We also teamed up with fellow PIE Network members in other states: Empower Illinois, NewMexicoKidsCAN, TennesseeCAN, JerseyCAN, and A for Arizona, in addition to the Arizona State Chamber.
Over the course of the tour—with upwards of 1,000 attendees across eight stops so far—we learned that 79 percent of participants rated their state’s education system with a C or D for how well it is preparing high school graduates for tomorrow’s workforce. In addition, 82 percent of event attendees said it would take a “major overhaul” to create an agile education system. It’s a stark but honest assessment of the state of our schools. Here is the good news: 87 percent also committed to start tackling this work within their states.
When we focus on embedding agility into our education system, it helps move us away from the divided camps of status quo versus education reform, or traditional schools versus schools of choice. Under the agility tent, there is room for everyone with serious ideas about modernizing learning opportunities and education systems.
What’s Next for the ‘Agility’ Agenda
The agility agenda turns otherwise fractious education debates into a more constructive conversation about jobs and the economy, as well as the collaboration it requires to prepare both students and adult job-switchers. We noted incumbents and challengers alike in several of the nation’s gubernatorial races pivoted from contentious positions on education to more unifying efforts to connect families, schools, and employers to future-focused education and training.
And while each community had its own unique, localized challenges, there were also some universally applicable big ideas that arose from the tour. We are compiling those into a follow-up report, resource map, and policy tool-kit.
The resources are designed to respond to a very straightforward bottom line: if students and workers must be agile and adaptable to succeed in this new world, then the same holds true for the education systems that prepare them.
That’s why we welcome all stakeholders to come learn about our findings and engage in our ongoing work to modernize education and workforce pathways. We will wrap up the 2018 tour and launch Age of Agility 2.0 on January 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C. We invite you to join us for this free event, and keep up with our work at AgeOfAgility.org.