America’s Promise Alliance released a study yesterday that finds that only about half of all students served by the main school systems in the nation’s 50 largest states graduate from high school.

I had the opportunity to attend the event. And it was exciting – with the room jammed with television and print reporters and with leaders from the public and private sectors. 

Alma J. Powell and General Colin Powell made the announcement and discussed details of the study. Here’s one part:

“When more than one million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe. Our economic and national security are at risk when we fail to educate the leaders and the workforce of the future,” said General Powell “It’s time for a national ‘call to arms,’ because we cannot afford to let nearly one-third of our kids fail.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families is an alliance partner – and this overall issue of workforce readiness is one of our continuing top priorities.  We share the concerns of General Powell and many others who recognize that this is a compelling national problem, one that affects the ability of our business community to compete and one that has the potential to substantially reduce the quality of life for our children and theirs. 

But it is also a problem with solutions, if we can harness the skills, resources and vision of all the stakeholders – parents, business leaders, educators, community leaders, policy makers, and young people themselves.

And it is right and necessary to keep the national spotlight on this issue – and that should be applauded. Yet at the same time we need to work with the business community to create real opportunities and pathways to employment.

For instance, at the announcement yesterday, Ed Rust from State Farm challenged the business community to get involved and recognize that “awareness is not enough.” Corporate Voices looks forward to working with State Farm and others throughout the business community to move this discussion beyond awareness and into sustainable opportunity for this population of youth to succeed.

by Tiffany Westover-Kernan