Too many students, more than 1.2 million, drop out of school every year in the United States alone and increasing numbers of young people are unemployed globally. Sadly, of the 13 million children growing up in poverty today, only 1 in 10 will graduate from college. There is evidence that the private sector can do to help with filling the academic and skill gaps that hinder our young people from succeeding in high school. Business volunteers in communities around the world inspire students to set career goals; they guide young people in building their confidence through mentorship and project-based learning. The business community and the education community need each other now more than ever but the collaboration between schools and businesses is not always happening at a necessary scale.
I had the pleasure of participating in a regional business-education conference in Fresno, California recently, and walked away with renewed optimism and a few important learnings. First, business-education partnerships are two-way and, when successful, engage all stakeholders including parents and students. Second, to be successful, we have learned that business-education partnerships must have clearly articulated goals and a means of measuring progress including outputs and outcomes. In the end, we need to define the value that these collaborations bring to all of the stakeholders at all stages of the partnership.
It was clear from my conversations in Fresno that building the bridges between the classroom and the real world is the key role that the business community can play in helping young people. According to many who study these issues, students often lack the knowledge of how classroom learning connects to the real world while studies have shown that when students do see the connections, their performance improves. Business volunteers can catalyze these important connections.
I am proud that Johnson & Johnson established the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program www.Bridge2Employment.com more than twenty years ago to address some of these issues. BTE is a business-education partnership grounded in a community-based model that introduces young people to health careers and the academic requirements of pursuing a health career. Our employees participate as mentors, working with students over their final three years of secondary education. Employee volunteers teach, guide and inspire these young people as they prepare for further education and careers.
I have seen the positive and measurable effects of this program throughout the world. I have seen the magic that occurs when business and education come together. I have seen lives turned around, new ambitions nurtured and dreams come alive. Replicating and scaling programs like BTE will require more commitment from business and education to build the sustainable and successful collaborations that our students need. I look forward to continuing our commitment and seeing the change we can help to make in the world of education.
As an Executive Director of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson, Michael Bzdak leads our philanthropic work focused on strengthening the health care workforce as well as our program evaluation strategies.