Joint Retreat: Education Needs
A joint retreat of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County School Board was held at the Junior Achievement Finance Park at Frost Middle School, 4099 Pickett Rd. on Saturday, Feb. 25.
You may also review the notes from each topic session and view related presentations by topic.
Dana Kauffman, Director of College Government Affairs, Northern Virginia Community College: Where will the jobs be in the future? We need to position the region for continued economic growth and ensure that the educational system is positioned to sustain that. The first workforce study was done by Dr. Stephen Fuller and the second was by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
Over the next 10 years, there will be an additional 300,000 jobs here. That’s about a 2 percent growth annually for the next decade. Forty percent of the new jobs will be in the professional science and technology area. In the past, a high school education was enough to be able to survive and support a family. But that won’t be the case in the future, more education will be needed. If you don’t have the workforce, then the employers will need to look outside to “buy” and bring employees to the area. There’s been a lot of emphasis on cyber security, but biotechnology, engineering technology and health care are also big fields.
Kids today (the future workforce) are largely non-white but with no tradition at the college level. This shift in the labor force means the best educated workforce of today’s baby boomers will be replaced with a workforce that is less educated. There are two strategic issues: better college access for first generation college goers, immigrants and minorities and developing a tech-savvy front-line workforce.
Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) is working with county businesses and others to hand off students to GMU and other institutions. Thirty thousand students have started at NVCC and then gone on to GMU in the past decade. Also needed are cooperative relationships between businesses and teachers, so they will know what the students need to know to get the jobs. The goal is to improve college readiness and to help a generation with no tradition of college. NVCC wants to have a summit next fall to bring together all the different groups to define the problem and map out proposed plans to respond.
Schools Superintendent Dale: How can we partner with chambers and others to create internship opportunities for youth? Businesses don’t concentrate on school districts but more regionally.
NVCC Director of College Government Affairs Kauffman: Business community reaction has been extremely positive; this gives them an opportunity to work on greater internship programs.
Sup. Cook: Forty percent of FCPS graduates need remedial education in order to take some college level classes. What else is needed to prepare the youth?
NVCC Director of College Government Affairs Kauffman: Many students can’t handle college level math or English and need to take remedial classes first. We’ve been working on a number of things. We link closely with school systems and reach out to school systems to take care of issues before the youth go to college; it is a shared challenge.
Schools Superintendent Dale: Virginia is one of the least aligned educational systems going from local schools to community colleges to universities.
Sup. Herrity: My brother in western Henrico County who is a teacher gave a test to students and discovered that a majority of students can’t do basic computations without using a calculator. How can you go onto upper education if you can’t figure out 7 x 7? He was successful in getting his school system to look at this problem.
Sup. McKay: We live in a pretty transient area. Can we identify whether these kids came up through the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system without getting the needed skills? Or did they come late into our school system?
Schools Superintendent Dale: The majority are students who entered Fairfax County in late elementary or early high school and haven’t mastered the skills.
Sup. McKay: The norm here is that our kids are coming out of school very well prepared so the public may not be aware of these gaps.
School Board Member Storck: Beginning with the end in mind, what’s happening next after students leave the FCPS? What kind of employees will we see to have success for the businesses? We have technical education in middle schools.
Schools Superintendent Dale: The majority of students go on to college; about 90 percent go to two or four year higher education.
NVCC Director of College Government Affairs Kauffman: We live in a throwaway society and nobody fixes anything anymore, so NVCC dropped some classes that taught how to fix appliances.
Schools Superintendent Dale: When we tried to offer welding and HVAC classes at the high school level, we don’t get the involvement or support from parents. There are some amazing jobs available but there is familial pressure not to go into some fields.
Sup. Hudgins: I have often sat at the regional level and seen the level of applicants. People in other areas are pulled off the streets but fail in the jobs because of lack of underpinning for the job. Do we know if some need guidance to get where they need to go?
Deputy County Executive for Human Services Harrison: We have a partnership with NVCC for adults and we are beginning to look at all the county-funded services that are involved with employment. We’ve integrated the NVCC programs into some offerings for persons who are homeless. NVCC meets with Northern Virginia human services officials at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to work further together and increase collaboration between community colleges, local governments and nonprofits.
NVCC Director of College Government Affairs Kauffman: We have taken folks in dead-end jobs and trained them to get a living wage position.
Deputy County Executive for Human Services Harrison: There are ongoing investments by businesses, NVCC, nonprofits, schools and the county.
Sup. Gross: Impending cuts to ACE, adult and community education, should be noted. This is not the first time we’ve done this with the business community and schools. Back in the 90s, when the dot coms were prolific, the Potomac Conference had a number of meetings on this same topic on a regional basis. The four-year colleges more so than the community colleges were involved then. There was a lot of business community interest then.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments issued a report in 2010 on workforce education and how to maintain and create jobs and address underemployed persons so some work has been done already. These kinds of collaborations have worked well in the past. It really has to be regional, it isn’t just Northern Virginia. Our borders are so porous; you live in one place and work in another. We need to look at the larger picture.
School Board Member McLaughlin: Data points help inform good actions. Knowledge of how Maryland does this better than we do is good, while Dr. Dale is still here he should be a leader in the dialogue in Richmond. If we don’t have alignment with K-12 and colleges, how can we improve things? Standards of Learning (SOLS) are creating a hurdle for college readiness. Ninety percent are doing well so I don’t want people to think we aren’t preparing our kids, although we should be dedicated to helping the other 10 percent of our graduates, overall we’re doing well.
School Board Member Schultz: Very interesting that we just met days ago with instructional services and talked about this in depth. There’s a need for myth busting as a perception of vocational technology (votech) and tech education and some of it needs to be rebranded and integrated into the curriculum. This is so interwoven and I would encourage us to pause and look at how we produce the raw material the workforce needs. Maybe we shouldn’t fill the instructional services position until we figure out where to go.
School Board member Hynes: How well are we keeping track of our kids after they leave us? If we check in with them at ages 21 or 25, could we figure out if we could have done more? Can we measure better after they’ve left us?
Sup. Foust: Not enough graduates to meet the workforce need? Not sure that’s a problem since youth from other areas come here.
NVCC Director of College Government Affairs Kauffman: How are we positioning people who need to retrain? There’s a gap between the available jobs and the folks trained to fill them. We [NVCC] can’t be a stand-alone without a relationship with both high schools and the four-year colleges.
School Board Member McElveen: We need to see where our teens go after graduation. It would be good to work together to create an alumni social network and connect them to the community when they’ve finished their education and come back so they can contribute their resources, money and time. Many courses may be unsexy and students don’t want to enroll in them but we can learn from Montgomery County, Md., where they bring in career tech people and give parents a reason to invest in them.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: We have a formula for success here; students are going through our schools and getting great jobs. If we identify something that could interrupt that pipeline we should do what’s needed to collaborate and prepare kids to get into the workforce which serves us so well in the region.