This is the second of a two part series about the Feb. 25, 2012, joint retreat of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board.
Part I, Board of Supervisors, School Board Team Up, was published Monday.
Providing a skilled work force for the next decade is going to require collaboration between public school systems, community colleges and four-year universities, according to local educators.
Dana Kauffman, director of College Government Affairs at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), said local communities need to grow their own front-line work force. He addressed the joint retreat of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board Saturday.
A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University found there will be more than 300,000 new jobs coming to Fairfax County in the next 10 years, said Kauffman.
Forty percent of those are predicted to be in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, referred to in educational circles as “STEM.” “That’s larger than the next four fields combined,” said Kauffman.
Kauffman said a study by a leading labor economist from Georgetown University estimated two-thirds of the new jobs will require post-secondary education.
“As the baby boomers retire, we will lose one of the best educated work forces the county has ever seen, replaced with one that is less educated and doesn’t have the skill sets to fill the new jobs,” said Kauffman. That’s because many people in the upcoming work force are from families in which no one has gone to college.
“We need your cooperation and partnership to work with business to provide better college access for first-generation college goers,” Kauffman told the supervisors and school board members.
More Access and 'SySTEMic Solutions'
Kauffman said Virginia HB 1184, which passed the Virginia House on Feb. 6, and the Virginia Senate on Feb. 20, would stretch enrollment at NOVA, and contribute to the needed work force. HB 1184 provides dual enrollment for high school students, giving them college credit for work in high school.
In addition, NOVA is working with Delegate Jim Scott (D-Fairfax) and Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), supporting Budget Amendment #212H, which would provide $1 million for NOVA’s STEM initiative called SySTEMic Solutions.
“A $1 million commitment ($500,000 each year of the biennium) would bolster and expand SySTEMic Solutions beyond the current service area of Prince William to include Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, and Alexandria. The $1M from the General Assembly will be matched by corporations to be able to sustain and continue to expand these programs,” says a NOVA SySTEMic Solutions document.
NOVA projects the investmet will place more than 16,000 students in the technology worker pipeline by 2015 - 2016.
“SySTEMic Solutions provides a replicable model to supply skilled workers through bringing a comprehensive STEM curriculum, intensive teacher training process and numerous dual enrollment student enrichment opportunities together in one research-based approach,” says the document.
“In the last 10 years, 30,000 students who started at NOVA have gone on to Mason,” said Kauffman.
Kauffman said a cooperative relationships between teachers and employers provides better understanding of what kids need to know to get into and hold a job.
NOVA is already working with Arlington High Schools on a class system, which would provide high school graduates with both a high school diploma and a two- year degree.
Remedial Education Needed
Superintendent Jack Dale reported about 20 percent of FCPS graduates go into NOVA, and 50 percent of those require some remedial work before beginning their core courses.
“Those FCPS graduates coming into NOVA are not ready to handle college level English and math," Dale said. “That means about 10 percent of our total graduates are showing need for some kind of remediation,” said Dale.
Dale believes the state’s Standards of Learning (SOLs) are creating a hurdle for college readiness. “The misalignment comes because we teach to the what the SOLs want, not what colleges expect."
Dale said this kind of disconnect is not common in all states. “Virginia is probably one of the least aligned education systems at the state level,” said Dale. “There is no compelling reason at the state level for school systems, community colleges and four-year university’s to work together.”
“It’s stunning to me that you can get through our system without knowing the basics,” said Jeff McKay, Lee District Supervisor.
Dale said many FCPS students come late into the system. “Our drop-out rate has been less than 10 percent over the last four years,’ said Dale. “The majority of those entered FCPS in the late elementary or middle school grades, and had not mastered reading by graduation,” he said.
Students also move from one school in the county to another, and their identified needs fall through the cracks, said Dale.
Deputy County Executive Pat Harrison said the county is also looking at a county funded adult education partnership with NOVA. Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross wanted to know where the school system's Adult and Community Education fit into that. “I’m getting a lot of emails about the cuts in that,” Gross said.
Kauffman said a forum on preparing the new workforce will be scheduled this fall for all stakeholders.