How to fast track Iowa’s future: Education + business partnerships

Education in 2017 is about connecting the classroom with a career path.

For Kris Byam, Principal of Boone High, he knows elementary students enjoy it when the athletic, music or theatre students visit. So he uses that same concept to expose younger students to various academic programs at Boone High School.

Byam uses a continuum from the Work Based Learning model that focuses on exploration, awareness, preparedness and training to meet the needs of his students but while local businesses.

But for high school students to complete the entire continuum in four years was difficult, Byam says.

“So you have to start earlier,” Byam explained. “We wanted to go down into our elementary and bring our students so they could see from our own kids what the programs are and the pathways that they can do. Then bring in our business partners so they can help facilitate that also.”

Byam spoke during a panel discussion at Wednesday’s “Fast Track Iowa’s Future” conference inside Iowa Events Center. The conference – sponsored by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council – featured emergent and established business education partnerships from communities across Iowa.

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(From left) Nick Glew, Kris Byam and Jennifer Hartman during a panel discussion Wednesday.

A total of eleven different panels and presentations were available along with snapshots of dozens of nationally recognized best practices in Iowa.

Hundreds of community business leaders, K-12 administrators, principals, educators, higher education, workforce and economic development professionals and policy leaders were represented.

Gov. Reynolds priority is an educated workforce

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke during the conference and said connecting the classroom experience to a potential career transforms the educational system.

“You are teaching students to be collaborative, innovative and how to think like an entrepreneur,” Reynolds said. “It’s exciting to see their eyes light up with curiosity and confidence when they talk about what they’re learning.”

Reynolds mentioned two of her top four priorities since becoming Governor of Iowa is to educate and prepare the next workforce, while educating the current workforce.

“It’s not just about how many Iowans are working, it’s about whether Iowans are fulfilling their full potential,” Reynolds said. “We need a ready, well-equipped and available work force that is prepared long before high school graduation and doesn’t end there.”

She will achieve her goals through public/private partnerships that have been created through STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) in Iowa. Partnerships between businesses, schools, nonprofits and economic development.

“This effort is inclusive and I’m looking forward to working with you to make sure we reach our goal of having 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce having education or training beyond high school by the year 2025,” Reynolds said. “It means opportunities for Iowans and a workforce ready to meet the demand.” unnamed-2-1.jpg

Adapting is a skill

When acting Lt. Governor Adam Gregg graduated high school in 2002 the jobs and problems of today didn’t exist.

That still rings true in 2017.

Gregg used an example of a Facebook employee who is supposed to make sure ads are targeted to the right audience.

“In 2002, a job targeting ads on Facebook was a job that didn’t yet exist, using a technology that wasn’t invented to solve a problem that we didn’t know existed yet,” Gregg said. “Students have to have the skills to adapt in a rapidly changing economy like ours.”

Byam said he’s asked Reynolds to adapt some policy to allow some business professionals to work with students.

He said somebody that teaches adults how to become an electrician, plumber, welder or whatever it is should be allowed to work with students.

“That’s something we’ve talked about with the Governor is we have to find ways to incorporate our businesses and allow them access to teach and help our students,” Byam said.