In a recent article titled College and Career Readiness published in The School Administrator, Karen Pittman, Co-Founder and President of the Forum for Youth Investment, asks: Even if students graduate high school, are they really equipped for the next stage?

Unsurprisingly, the answer she found was no.

“No matter who is doing the measuring, the college – and work-readiness rates of high school seniors and high school graduates are appalling low.”

Karen reports that only three in ten seniors, at best, are college – ready and up to a fourth of all first-year students at four-year colleges do not return for their second year.  She cited Corporate Voices for Working Families’ research and quoted that four in ten high school graduates, at best, are work ready and that only 40 percent of business leaders surveyed offer some workforce readiness training to their workers.  (More information is available in our Corporate Voices research reports and publications, including “Are They Really Ready to Work?” and “The Ill-Prepared Workforce.”) This also echoes other research (see this recent story on NPR) being done around the country on college and work preparedness, the findings of which are consistent—our graduates are not prepared.

Karen concludes that it is not only the schools that should be held responsible for fixing the “readiness” problem of our youth, it is the entire community.

Dan Domenech, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), states, “The problem is the system, where we have silos and walls that go up . . . The community is either going to succeed or fail, but it is going to be a community effort.  Not the school’s effort, not the [YMCA’s] effort, not the United Way’s effort, not the businesses’ and corporations’ [effort].  A joint effort that everybody agrees on is necessary for success.”

Corporate Voices agrees.  Corporate Voices challenges business leaders to invest in workforce readiness as a business imperative.  In other words, Corporate Voices believes that business leaders should build broader partnerships with community leaders to ensure that they are receiving a qualified workforce with the skills that they need to succeed.

Along with AASA and other national organizations, Corporate Voices is a member of the Ready by 21 National Partnership.  The Partnership, headed by the Forum for Youth Investment and Karen Pittman, helps communities improve the odds that all youth are ready for work, college and life.  Ready by 21 taps the expertise and dedication of diverse leaders who care about children, youth and families, meeting them where they are and helping them chart a course for better outcomes for young people. The Partnership and the Ready by 21 strategy embrace the notion that helping young people prepare for work and life is a broad-based community effort that requires coalitions working together and pairing resources for our children’s future.

Please visit the new Corporate Voices Ready by 21 site and learn more about Ready by 21 and how you can get involved.

By Sara Toland