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Corpus Christi Looks to Bridge the Gap Between Schools & Local Business

More than 100 participants gathered in Corpus Christi, Texas for America’s Promise Alliance’s GradNation Community Summit on October 14. This event focused on bridging the gap between what students learn in school and applying what they learn in the workplace. Roughly 65 percent of the skilled Corpus Christi workforce will be retiring by 2017, so schools and employers are looking for new ways to get students ready and prepared to enter the local labor market.

Notable speakers at the summit included the Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez, State Representatives, a Nueces County Judge, and members from the local school district, among others. This summit was led by Citizens for Educational Excellence, a local nonprofit working to improve education in Corpus Christi by increasing resources and information to the six local school districts.

 “What skills do students need for tomorrow’s workplace?” was a question asked throughout the day to elected officials, members of the armed forces, school board members, business managers, youth-serving leaders and students in attendance. While there was no simple answer to this question, participants across the board agreed that everyone in this conversation could do something more to make sure students have the skills they need.

Currently, a number of Corpus Christi high schools are implementing dual degree programs. These dual degree high schools allow students to attend college and high school at the same time, and graduate from high school with both a High School Diploma and an Associate’s Degree. Some Corpus Christi schools also have the option of graduating with a certificate in the trades. Through the certificate in the trades program, students are provided with ample well-paid apprenticeships in different industries that will help them master their trade skills in three to four years. Participants from all sectors agreed that these dual-degree and certificate programs were promising and helping get students better prepared for college and careers. 

Texas Workforce Commission Chief Economist Rich Froeschle told the students, “In Texas, the more accomplished you are at applied math, the more you can make.” By aligning educational initiatives with the current and emerging labor markets, Corpus Christi students will receive better training earlier in their education, helping them get to jobs sooner.

However, business leaders know that not all of the work to help get students into the workforce can be done by those in the educations sector. Business and school leaders agreed that workforce programs and better communications between business leaders and educators are necessary if they want the youth to truly succeed.