The skills needed for today's jobs are very different from those required just five years ago. Technical expertise and critical thinking skills are major requirements for employees of the 21st century, and the trend is predicted to accelerate.
From the president to education experts and executives at major companies, everyone is sounding the alarm that the United States continues to fall behind in these areas. It is becoming a national priority to educate and train our children so they can compete in the global market. They all point to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and career and technical education (CTE) as the vehicles to make sure students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.
The Rapides Foundation is taking a lead role in Central Louisiana. It will provide grants to the nine Cenla school districts to begin the planning process to incorporate STEM and CTE strategies into their schools. The districts are using the planning grants to explore best practices, and learn from communities that are already successfully preparing students.
“For almost a decade we have been working with the school districts to improve student achievement,” said Joe Rosier, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “Our main focus has been to build leadership skills in schools and in the district offices, and to improve classroom instruction in math and literacy. The Foundation is committed to continuing those partnerships, with the future emphasis moving to STEM and CTE. It is critical that are our students are prepared in those areas, so that is where we will provide funding opportunities.”
The Foundation believes this issue is far-reaching. It organized a STEM/CTE Summit in January to bring together area business and community leaders to hear from experts and educators. They became part of the dialogue about Cenla’s readiness for the future. And they recognized that STEM and CTE really impact everyone: employers, workers, educators and people in all our communities who care about making sure school districts meet the challenges ahead.
Wilma Hamilton Delp, a nationally recognized educator and lead technical assistant for the Foundation’s Education Initiative, said that support will be key to the district’s success, and she recognizes the important role the Foundation plays.
“The Foundation is truly a trusted partner. Funding is always an issue for districts, and now in these uncertain economic times it’s especially critical,” she said. “The Foundation's financial support is important, but even more vital is how it serves as a conduit for information to the districts -- providing opportunities for them to reach out to other places -- to learn from districts and schools that are successfully implementing STEM and CTE programs.”