I’ve worked in a diverse mix of industries, and often times I hear the same concerns as it relates to bridging the worlds of education and business. Many business leaders see the value their organizations can provide to students and know the paths to get to the incredible careers available to today’s students, but they often can’t find the right avenue to share that knowledge.

At Project Lead The Way, we see the creative ways they can offer support, and how the education community can innovate to take advantage of these valuable resources. In doing so, they’ll also be able to recruit their talent for tomorrow.

The most obvious way businesses can help is through financial support. It’s a tried-and-true method that can make a meaningful difference to schools and the opportunities they can provide for students. Districts can implement new programs, develop career learning opportunities, fund out-of-classroom experiences, and invest in new learning tools with the extra financial support corporate partners can provide. Those experiences can give students context to their learning that help them envision future career paths and equip them with hands-on skills they may not otherwise learn.

But providing meaningful contributions to students doesn’t have to be just financial assistance. Even the fundamentals of the curriculum students learn can benefit from real-world feedback from business leaders. No one knows better what skills will make for industry success than those whose business success hinges on qualified professionals in their workplace. As we develop curriculum at Project Lead The Way, we pride ourselves on having industry leaders getting in on the ground floor of the process to shape learning for the skills that truly matter.

Organizations can also implement programs that get their employees directly interacting with students interested in a career in the field. In-classroom or on-site visits give accessible opportunity to students and a hands-on view of what these careers truly are like. Interacting with employees and seeing work up close helps students understand the realities and opportunities that a career field can provide. And to give students a deeper understanding, internships help develop that familiarity with an industry that few other experiences can offer.

Businesses can also use their voices to support more holistic skill development – from technical skills to transportable, or “soft”, skills such as problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creative and critical thinking. It’s said you measure what you treasure, yet even as we increasingly value skills beyond just the technical, most academic tests are not keeping up and remain primarily knowledge-based. At PLTW, we’ve developed an End-of-Course Assessment that measures not just course knowledge, but also these critical transportable skills. These test scores can then be used not just in academic performance evaluation, but they can also be great indicators for how students will excel in their careers. By increasing business and community encouragement for these types of holistic evaluations, we have the chance to further prepare students for life outside the classroom.

We also encourage companies to get creative in the support they can offer students. PLTW can help identify what unique resources businesses can offer to students to help spark interest in a future career path – whether that’s by investing time, resources, or expertise. With the right educational partner, the sky is the limit.

Supporting students isn’t just the right thing to do. Investing career support for students means a future workforce equipped with the skills needed for success, building a bright future for the people of Indiana.

To learn more about how your business can make an impact, visit pltw.org/partner.

Brandi Davis-Handy is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Indianapolis-based education nonprofit Project Lead The Way. This article is part of a series with education nonprofit Project Lead The Way that explores Indiana’s Future-Ready Workforce.

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