Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cooperation is the Path to Reinvention

Recently, Tech Futures reminded NEO of its shared need for reinvestment in education. By investment, NorTech’s Chris Varley clearly means more than throwing money at the issue. Chris is calling for more cooperation among learning institutions, employers and NEO citizens, as he asserts:

"The solution? Well, if it were easy someone else would have already done it, but it means tackling and improving our educational and workforce training efforts at every level, from pre-school through graduate school. And that means lots of different organizations focused intently on the "pieces and parts" but in ways that are coordinated and mutually supportive."

The good news is that cooperation is happening. We’ve heard about it at Polaris Career Center. It is Cuyahoga County’s Joint Vocational School for 11th and 12th grade students, as well as a place where adults can receive new training and companies bring employees to learn the latest in best practices.

Polaris had been struggling to keep high school students interested in its manufacturing related coursework. However, the problem was turned on its head once the vocational school teamed with Tooling University, the Cleveland-based e-learning service for manufacturing skills.

The vocational school is now grappling with the enviable challenge of managing demand and requiring waiting lists for its manufacturing related classes. Polaris is witnessing phenomenal gains in student performance, combined with dramatic drops in disciplinary referrals. These students are on a path to lifelong learning. Case in point, Polaris’ Geoff Andrews reports that e-learning metrics allow school administrators to closely monitor student study habits. He has documented instances where kids were actively studying Polaris coursework while on spring break in Florida. That’s powerful.

Increasingly we’re realizing that NEO citizens have many of the resources needed to reinvent our economy. However, we’re also recognizing the need for NEO citizens to break from parochial behaviors and make investments in cooperation -- regionally, economically, academically. It is the surest path to producing the synergies that can transform our economy and deliver a comparative advantage.


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