Showing Students What’s Within Reach: How companies can transform education

by Nikki Korn

Ever since I was a kid, I have been interested in education.  Not necessarily thinking about “school” but rather curious and intrigued about how I learned best — whether it was a hard skill like math or just pure confidence.

real learningWhat I noticed quickly was that what inspired me the most to learn, take risks and build great friendships were experiences that weren’t necessarily in the “classroom.”   Moments when my teachers and role models took me to new places, literally or figuratively, and introduced me to people who could connect the subject matter to the “real world” were the most powerful.  This is not a new concept, but it is unfortunately not common enough for students of all ages.

It’s been a long time since I was a student, and now I am lucky enough to work with diverse companies as they engage and tackle societal issues.  One trend I see from these brands is their desire to play a role in education. Whether that role is collaborating with schools, nonprofits and government leaders, or impacting students directly, the need for businesses to support education by providing richer learning experiences for students is clear.  This engagement doesn’t need to be a heavy lift.  It can start with simple steps that can be life-changing for a student, such as sharing career stories, bringing students to see your company’s work and environment, engaging students in actual problem-solving and brainstorming or offering internship opportunities.

iStock_000036753884_XXXLargeAs 21st-century businesses seek a more diverse, educated and energized workforce, companies have the opportunity to show students what they are looking for–young people who have the courage to take risks, the ability to work on imperfect teams tackling complex issues, the confidence to apply their STEM know-how and an innate drive to succeed.

Last summer, the Cause Consulting team heard about the importance of preparing for career success through exposure to the real world from 32 students from Boson Public High Schools, who participated in the Youth Design program. In collaboration with Rahn Dorsey, Chief of Education for the City of Boston, we elicited their voices on what the “high school of the future” could be, many of which revolved around this concept of “real-world” learning.
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This effort is part of the city’s initiative to transform Boston Public High Schools and rallying students and stakeholders to take part. “High school needs to be more human–an experience without walls–one that connects students to college and professionals in a meaningful way showing them us what’s within reach,” explained Mr. Dorsey.

untitled-109As students head back to school, it’s a perfect time for companies to initiate new programs and engage employees in providing educational opportunities for youth. How have you and your business contributed to learning experiences outside of the classroom? And what else can you do to show students what’s within reach?