Education Wednesday: A Lesson From Our Business Leaders

The importance of engaged business leaders is often overlooked in the conversation on educating our kids. However, business leaders have a vested interest in articulating the needs of industry and preparing youngsters to thrive in the future economy. Increasingly these important stakeholders are combining their business-savvy minds with education initiatives to reach the youth of today and the workforce of tomorrow.


Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on the emerging role of business leaders in education. The keynote speaker Eddie Rispone spoke about his work improving educational standards in his state. This prominent construction industry businessman in Louisiana said he felt responsible to help prepare students for the real challenges of the workplace and improve access for all kids to quality education. Through an appointment by the Governor of Louisiana, Rispone organized a consortium of businesses to promote a solid education as the foundation to a strong economy.

The takeaway from this talk is that business leaders possess more power than perhaps they realize to influence better educational outcomes. Because they are pillars of the economy, private industries have the ear of state officials in ways that often times elude teachers and parents.

Staying engaged can open a wide range of opportunities for business leaders to shape, for example, curriculums to better align teaching with particular industry skills and even access to more state funding. One great example is the University of North Carolina joining with Siemens to implement a STEM program aimed at training engineers for the company's new plant. The specialized training the students gain and the increased chance of employment after graduation are clear benefits of public-private collaborations.

Adding to this conversation, blogger Frank Lyman of the Huffington Post notes three things to consider when looking to build a public-private partnership. I would like to share a summary of his poignant tips:

Tips for Building a Public-Private Partnership:

  1. Recognize the changing environment: Educators are looking for real solutions to problems such as high remediation and low graduation rates--factors which ultimately affect workforce readiness--and are turning to innovative ideas wherever they may find them, including private organizations.
  2. Synchronize your goals: Within a public-private partnership, it is important for both parties to recognize the other's goals, particularly the language in which these goals are articulated. Also, to ensure both parties are successful,  the performance of the partnership must be continuously evaluated.
  3. Make it core: For a strong partnership, educational institutions must be open to integrating the product or service of the private partner into their teaching mission making it a key component to success--making it core. Adding to this, Rispone noted that it is also vital for businesses to include educational initiatives as core projects within their work.


Without supporting education systems that provide the proper training, high skill jobs will continue to go unfilled--much like what is occurring with STEM jobs as I mentioned in Education Wednesday: Why You Should Know More About STEM.

We must continue to find ways to help business and education go hand-in-hand so that public-private partnerships continue to grow. Whether through direct partnerships such as large corporations teaming up with education systems to address specific challenges or by forming coalitions to stimulate broad reforms, business leaders have the opportunity to provide new pathways to promote educational achievement.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How are public-private partnerships shaping education in your area?