Conference brings together leading businesses to address education reform

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, July 12, 2013

A conference hosted by Hewlett-Packard and attended by many of California’s leading employers addressed the challenge of increasing high school graduation rates among students from lower income areas.

The conference, which was titled Educating California’s Future Workforce: The Role of Business in Connecting Students to College and Careers featured executives from a group of blue chip companies including UPS, Deloitte, Marriott International, Edelman, Univision and Genentech. Featured speakers were John HInshaw an Executive Vice President of Hewlett-Packard and JD Hoye, President of the National Academy Foundation (NAF), a national network of career themed public high schools.

“It was an event to convene employers in the area and explore ways for local businesses to become more engaged in working with students, particularly those in high school,” said Brenda Barry, an Assistant Vice President for Academy Development at the National Academy Foundation. “We’ve seen the results and students in our academies are better prepared for college and to go into the workforce because of the impact the business community is having on a local and national level. Their involvement includes hosting career themed events, providing internships and helping us develop a more focused curriculum.”

The specific goal of the conference was to develop ways to increase the number of lower-income youth who complete high school on time and go on to obtain a post secondary degree, both areas that NAF has been successful in. The goal is to combine several factors that have a positive impact on the learning process including challenging academics, support services, developing technical skills and knowledge and work-based learning through internships.

“The real hook for employers is that they can use this as an opportunity to build their future workforce,” said Ms. Barry. “When students have life changing events at NAF academies it broadens the workforce pool and one of the major issues companies are dealing with now is recruiting the right talent for their job openings.”

Ms. Barry also pointed out that students are often very unaware of where the job opportunities are once they get into the workforce and this lack of knowledge holds them back in preparing adequately.

The event also focused specifically on high schools, as businesses often look just at colleges when forging partnerships. According to Ms. Barry, “the business community is very used to forming partnerships with community colleges and universities so it’s our challenge to create the value added message to them that the benefits are equally as great in working with high school students,”

About the National Academy Foundation (NAF) 

The National Academy Foundation (NAF) is an acclaimed network of career-themed academies that open doors for underserved high school students to viable careers. For more than 30 years, NAF has refined a proven model that provides young people access to industry-specific curricula, work-based learning experiences, and relationships with business professionals. NAF academies focus on one of five career themes: finance, hospitality & tourism, information technology, engineering, and health sciences. More than 4,600 business professionals volunteer in classrooms, act as mentors, engage NAF students in paid internships, and serve on local advisory boards. During the 2012-13 school year 62,000 students attended 546 NAF academies across 39 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2012, NAF academies reported 97% of seniors graduated.