George Mason University

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Leading the way for schools, businesses to shape students’ career paths

March 9, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Arne Duncan at George Mason University Arlington Campus

Arne Duncan speaking at the symposium “Strengthening the Pipeline from School to Work: Private Sector and School Partnerships,” which several hundred business, K-12 and university leaders attended. Photo by Damian Cristodero.

For Arne Duncan, the key to successfully educating and preparing students for career paths is relevance.

“Students want to know what they are doing in the classroom is relevant in the real world,” the former U.S. Secretary of Education said. “Kids should know that if I take this class I can get this internship, and this internship will lead to a real job. If we can get to that point, we’re going to be in great shape.”

Duncan was the keynote speaker Thursday at Founders Hall on George Mason University’s Arlington Campus as part of a symposium called “Strengthening the Pipeline from School to Work: Private Sector and School Partnerships.”

The event, put on by George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), Schar School of Policy and Government, and Center for Regional Analysis, with support from the Virginia Department of Education and Jobs for the Future, brought together several hundred business, K-12 and university leaders to discuss rigorous strategies for establishing and growing those partnerships.

Mason faculty member and former Virginia Secretary of Education, Anne Holton, led the organization of the meeting with a team of CEHD and Schar School faculty and graduate students

“The linkages between universities and public schools in the commonwealth and industry and business leaders is a triumvirate that is significant and important,” said CEHD Dean Mark Ginsberg. “So that is what today is all about, to leverage the relationships between the three sectors.”

“But someone has to step up and lead, and George Mason has a long history of doing that,” said Duncan, who was Secretary of Education under then-President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015. “It’s great to see them bring folks together to not just talk about theories but about concrete action.”

That means all parties leaving their comfort zones, Duncan said.

Business leaders have to start mentoring students and teachers. And educators, he said, “have to stop thinking we know it all.”

Duncan said educators should allow business leaders to shape curriculums and help train teachers to better train students in certain fields.

It is that kind of direction, Duncan said, that keeps students engaged.

“I would argue it is more important than ever that we have clear pathways for young people,” Duncan said. “It sounds so common sense and obvious, but so often folks struggle to do it well.”