Internship opportunities: a college to career GPS

May 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Posted in America's education system, Current events | 1 Comment
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by Dr. Rudy Crew USC, Advisor to internships.com

For the last decade, this country has been trying to “Leave No Child Behind.”  One premise was that the institutions charged with the care of children and young adults would operate seamlessly, and collaboratively in building skills, attitudes and values that enable successful careers.

I got the point, however subliminal.  As a former Chancellor of New York City Schools and later, Miami Dade County, I think the notion of leaving no child behind, had tremendous strategic potential.  But then there’s life and tyranny of the day to day.

The K-12 system is only loosely connected to that of junior colleges and other post-secondary institutions.  And from there, the way from college into the career or job of one’s choice is a function of luck, circumstance and as one young man once told me, a “hook up.” In truth, by contrast to other developed nations, we do a poor job of teaching the needed skills of occupational and civic literacy.  Worse yet, the path from college to a career requires a “GPS,” which very few students actually have.  Were it not for college career centers, savvy parents and big business, few students would make it into the job market at all, and even fewer from poor communities.

It was once taken as an article of faith, that college exit meant job entry.  The numbers tell a different tale.  First, 7 million jobs have left this country since 2006. Employment numbers are slow going north, and for the age group of the average college student (18-24) unemployment is still double the national average.   All this makes the case for a more explicit means by which students in this country get from college into a job—a National Internship program.  This is an investment in college age youth by small and big businesses alike.  It argues from the place where vision meets strategy– like that of other eras in our history when the marketplace was in turmoil.  The GI bill after WWII, the Civil Rights Bill both came after decades of deferred dreams for education and access to jobs–good jobs.

So now education is going to “Race to the Top.”  President Obama is right to suggest that we need to double time our pace if we intend to be competitive, globally.  But again, is it a slogan for the campaign or is there a strategy behind it?  Is there a real set of stairs from a community college in rural or urban America to a good job in the US economy?  I’ll know it’s for real when the “race” is being run with incentives for small and medium businesses to take on interns in the workplace.  It’ll be true when colleges and universities enlist their alumni associations to give an internship to the entire junior and senior class.  It will be true when career center budgets swell because of volume of demand and America’s Mayors campaign for the youth vote by harnessing themselves to youth employment. And when the skills taught in American public schools are ratcheted up to bear some relationship to skills needed to join a college, or vocation—for all students.

So much to do; so little time to win this race.  Your thoughts please; just no slogans.

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