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Virginia Educational Changes Needed to Prepare New Workforce

Local educators say more cooperation and collaboration needed in Virginia to prepare for changing job market.

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, , was published Monday.

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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 (NOVA), said local communities need to grow their own front-line work force.  He addressed the .

A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Stephen Fuller of 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 ,” Gross said.

Kauffman said a forum on preparing the new workforce will be scheduled this fall for all stakeholders.

Mike February 29, 2012 at 09:32 PM
@Jonathan Erickson Great ideas, I like them.
Jennifer Hall March 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I work in Social Services. I should have paid better attention in Algerbra. I use math everyday as part of my job.
Sally Spangler March 28, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I know Fairfax County teachers are given chances to take classes during and after the school year to upgrade their subject knowledge. So - how long does it take each night and weekends to keep up with the work handed in daily to go over, correct, note positively or correctively back to the student(s)? To take the evenings and fill them with their own studies expanding their knowledge. The teacher becomes the student. Hmm, is there some sort of problem with too much on the teacher to cover in a seven day week.
Sally Spangler March 28, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I took high school subjects preparing me to go to college. Then Mother put a stop to that. The math and science classes, not to mention the English and History, were used in being a secretary.. I didn't know shorthand. Didn't need it with a word processor. I could spell. I knew how to set up problems and use them as were needed in the papers my employers were using in all kinds of engineering problems. I could certainly fix their English errors! I could ask questions as to whether the problems as they stated were the ones they did wanted or maybe another one which I thought might be a better.
Richard Baker January 23, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Used to be a math/science teacher in Florida. Told my kids that learning mathematics trains your mind to think logically. Not everyone will utilize STEM as a career but learning to organize your thoughts via math will teach that critical thinking which allows one to work through problems in life.

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