The Urgency For Change
Our nation's business leaders and policymakers understand that global competitiveness depends on the ability of our K-12 educational infrastructure to prepare a 21st century workforce. With baby boomers poised to retire in large numbers, and many high-skilled jobs, particularly in scientific and technical fields, going unfilled, improving the quality and performance of high schools has become the number one task facing communities large and small across the country. In our current economy, the push to increase the numbers of students qualified in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has increased as strength in these fields has become the key to maintaining U.S. economic leadership. However, our educational institutions are simply not graduating enough students for the high-skilled positions in these fields that employers need to fill, and our high schools in particular are not doing enough to prepare students for success, either in college or careers.
Too many high school students today are disconnected and unsuccessful in schools that lack relevance. A large proportion of students who drop out of high school say that they found school boring and their classes uninteresting. The national high school drop-out rate of 30 percent—and reaching levels of more than 50 percent among minority populations—testifies to the urgent need to engage our country's youth in learning that addresses their interests and develops their talents. Even of those who do graduate from high school, a surprisingly high percentage are required to take remedial academic courses in their first year of college, convincing many young people that college is not for them.
Even for many high- and medium-achieving students, traditional modes of instruction lack the real-world applications and engagement of personal interests that benefit young people. The lack of focus and persistence in higher education among academically qualified students suggests that personal engagement is missing in most high schools.
Add to that the considerable anxiety being generated by an economy in transition-from industrial- to knowledge-based-and education emerges as the most important factor in securing financial health and prosperity for both individuals and communities.
Ford recognizes the importance of these issues. In today's global economy, a highly skilled workforce is critical to corporate survival. The fiercely competitive global automotive sector has dramatically accelerated the shrinking of the talent pool, particularly in North America-and like many companies, Ford and its suppliers are having increasing difficulty in finding and keeping workers with skills in engineering, science, design, finance, and technology. The educational system is unable to meet the needs of this knowledge- and information-based economy. Ford Motor Company Fund’s Ford PAS Next Generation Learning initiatives are designed to mobilize all sectors of a community and to bring communities together, nationwide, to transform high schools and the entire workforce development system. By helping communities address this most perplexing challenge-ensuring the future of American competitiveness and economic health-Ford continues its long tradition of leading and supporting educational improvements that benefit the American economy.