myFutureNC Blog Series: Our Future “in Sync”By Dr. Stelfanie Williams, President, Vance-Granville Community College
While serving as a myFutureNC Commissioner over the last ten months, I have come to think of the group fondly as the “my Future ‘in sync’ Commission.” In recent years, North Carolina has strengthened collaboration among our institutions of learning and provided greater opportunities for students through strategic partnerships such as early college high schools, 95 percent of which exceed the state high school graduation rate. Yet, even in a state with a history of strong partnerships, perceptions of preparation for the workforce differ among employers and students, the views of policymakers and educators often contrast, and various educational systems sometimes struggle with their own agendas, much less collaborative engagement. Furthermore, increased competition in today’s global society, rapidly changing technology, expanding automation, and a richly diverse demography, requires us to recalibrate our partnerships to ensure that our educational and workforce systems are in sync.
In this dynamic environment, three aspects of synchrony are worthy of expansion in North Carolina:
- Seamless, even overlapping, modes of learning: Beyond early college high schools, there are opportunities for North Carolina to provide students with a more seamless education. Examples include reverse transfer credit, for students who have exited college but have earned sufficient credit or experience, and dual-admission community college/university programs that allow students to be accepted to a community college and university together, with transfer after completion of the first two years. Technology, too, can advance seamless structures, making education more accessible for students. Educators and policymakers must continue to identify and support seamless pathways to student success and innovation.
- Synchrony across platforms: Examining the overall needs of communities is key. Education cannot be designed in a vacuum; it must be considered in the context of overall resources within a region. One way to create synchrony across platforms is through public-private collaboration. Through these partnerships, cultivated by public education officials and private business leaders, companies are able to explore and understand the nature of learning, and educators are able to better respond to the needs of businesses. This mutual understanding can open the door to improved strategic planning, collaborations, and work-based opportunities for students. Apprenticeships provide students with a meaningful workplace learning opportunity while creating a robust workforce pipeline for employers located and invested in our state.
Another important partnership across platforms is between policymakers and practitioners. Educators have unique knowledge of the challenges facing our state’s education systems. Those challenges must be articulated and confronted if we want to improve. Similarly, legislators are intimately aware of the policy conditions that are needed to move our education solutions forward. Intentional discourse will lead to better ideas, and all North Carolinians will benefit from a well-educated state.
- Student access and success must be considered together: Navigating higher education can often prove discouraging or challenging for students. First-generation, older adults, and individuals who exited education to enter the workforce are among those who need support to enroll and complete programs of study that will support workforce and economic development in the state. We must consider the data of achievement and underachievement to find opportunities for continuous improvement and to realize more equitable outcomes.
In an increasingly divisive landscape, synchrony – even the work toward it – generates a more collaborative and cooperative spirit. We must recognize and celebrate the fact that no one entity has the solution to our educational needs, and we must understand that as institutions evolve, well-intentioned and planned partnerships should be cultivated and recalibrated.
So, as myFutureNC Commissioners strategize about how to strengthen the future of education for all North Carolinians, I hope they will incorporate opportunities for synchronization of our systems. Synchrony is hard, long-term work but provides real opportunities to develop seamless systems of support across platforms that serve the contextual needs for access and success across our state.
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