00419 Educators and Employers Two Different Worlds

So goes Arizona’s economy, so goes education, so goes the economy, so goes ed…

In the early 1990’s, Arizona had a thriving high-tech manufacturing sector with quality jobs paying twice the average wage of other sectors. Four of the top ten employers were high-tech, with 45,000 employees. By 2000 Honeywell had merged with Allied Signal Aerospace and Intel moved into the top ten with Motorola and Raytheon, with total of 52,000 employees. Today Walmart, and other retailers dominate the top 10 employers with only Honeywell and Raytheon with 23,000 high tech employees remaining.

Educators have striven over the past two decades to improve reading, math and science education and focus on learning 21st century skills. There has also been an effort to adopt high-tech learning support systems to improve effectiveness of student achievement. The small academic gains based on test scores may be statistically significant, but their effect factor is far off the mark of what is needed. High school graduation rates, and graduate career and college readiness have not begun to close Arizona’s widening demand gap.

From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, our major high-tech manufacturing firms were established as divisions of California, Chicago and New York based corporations. Since then, no divisions or corporations of this type have been successfully attracted or grown from scratch in Arizona. Current non-manufacturing successes such as Avnet (electronic components distributor) and Apollo (online learning) have combined 75,000 employees — but only a fraction are in Arizona.

Arizona’s population has almost doubled in the past couple of decades, but the high-tech quality jobs have not. Lower paying retail and service jobs continue their explosive growth.

What is the cause – effect relationship?

According to the Arizona Technology Council, there continues to be high demand in the high-tech community for high quality engineering, manufacturing and service employees, yet they are hard to find in Arizona even though our college level education system is working hard to meet the need.

The critical factor is that our K-12 system does not connect to this demand. K-12’s time horizon to address this demand is a decade or two while human resources departments need educated workers this year. K-12 boards and leaders live in a non-profit public service world while employers are mostly in the for-profit private sector. School funding comes from an array of property, income and other taxes. Employers pay their taxes with little influence on how schools are funded.

eSATS’ team has striven provide a solution that can transform education to be highly responsive to every student’s needs. Our intent is to home-grow an educated and skilled adult population that itself attracts and grows a huge number of quality jobs within Arizona.

But frankly I believe we are at a time similar to the Lincoln – Douglas debates and Lincoln’s Coopers Union address. Lincoln had so finely clarified the true situation between the South and the North that the nation had finally realized there was no political solution, and their only alternative was war.

Since war is not now an alternative, and the current reform process is not meeting the demand for greatly increase academic performance we must find a better way. There is a single critical linkage between educators and employers. Over the past 200 years, employers have become very effective in adopting emerging technologies of all kinds. If Arizona employers could transfer both the knowledge and the culture of technology driven innovation to our schools it might be just tip the scales toward transformation.

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