Business and Educators Figuring Out How to Strengthen Partnerships Following Passage of HB5

October 25, 2013 |

This article originally appeared in the Quorum Report and is being reprinted with permission for the Raise Your Hand Texas community.

October 21, 2013

Business and Educators Figuring Out How to Strengthen Partnerships Following Passage of HB5
Supporters of reforms fear some of it could be rolled back in 2015

Now that sweeping reforms to education have been made in the form of HB5, business leaders and educators are coming together to figure out how to best implement the part of the law that didn’t get as many banner headlines. While the bill that passed by wide margins with bipartisan support slashed the number of high-stakes tests high school students are required to take, it also created multiple pathways for students to either embrace the four-year college degree or choose a track that better prepares them for a career in the skilled trades. In pushing the reforms, the Senate champion of the bill, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, repeatedly said it was all about “honoring blue collar work” and understanding that even though college is a great option for many, it’s not the best thing for everyone.

Making this a reality, however, will require much better communication between businesses that will end up hiring the students in the future and the educators who are teaching them now. In fact, industry leaders in construction and the petrochemical sector are planning to meet for a summit in Houston next month to talk about ways to better cooperate so that the schools are equipping students with the kinds of skills employers need them to have. More information about that event is here.

Rep. John Davis, R-Clear Lake, said businesses need to do as good a job of marketing careers as the military does with its recruitment efforts. “It is really on industries to promote that these are good jobs,” he said. “Our school counselors and parents also need to get away from the mindset that you’re somehow a second-tier citizen if you’re doing a trade. These jobs have honor and a person can make a good living,” Davis said. He echoed a concern that’s been expressed by Sen. Patrick: The reforms might not be given enough time to work and that there could be a serious move to roll back some of what was done in HB 5 as soon as the 2015 session. “It’s not going to happen in one year,” Davis said. “It’s going to trend that way.”

Mike Holland, Houston Division President for Marek Brothers Construction, agreed with Davis that business can do a better job of articulating what career paths exist for future employees but he also said it’s a two-way street. “Educators can inform business about what kind of support they need in the way of co-ops, internships, etc. to make the learning experience more practical,” he said. Educators can also be made aware of their ability to promote the development of specific careers, Holland said, by acting as responsible construction owners on their own projects and requiring the certifications they are providing to students for contractors working on school projects. He pushed back against arguments that Texas is regressing by adding this kind of flexibility for students. “A substantial part of Texas and US industry requires specific skills training that’s not available in traditional four-year colleges. That’s a big part of why we’re facing severe shortages of these kinds of workers,” Holland said. “Much of our state and nation’s ability to compete globally is based on an available, productive blue collar workforce.”

Some school districts have already gotten really aggressive about this.

In the Pasadena ISD, for example, voters approved a bond issue back in 2011 to build a CTE High School that will serve 1700 students. The district “bit the bullet” and went ahead and did it even before the passage of HB5 because the demand was there, Superintendent Kirk Lewis said. When that career and tech high school is complete, it will be one of only 6 CTE high schools in the state. Lewis said he expects that after HB5 passed, other districts will embrace the idea.

Lewis said that all too often, the kids in his district who are at or below the poverty line “don’t have dreams that go beyond their own front yards.” He said the philosophy of promoting the skilled trades points to a future where fewer kids are dropping out of high school because many of them will view what they’re learning in class as relevant to their lives.

By Scott Braddock
Copyright October 21, 2013, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved

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