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Employers See Disconnect Between Schools, Economy

Posted on March 24, 2014

Twenty years of school reform have made Massachusetts a leader in public education, yet 69 percent of the state’s employers report difficulty hiring employees with the skills demanded by the modern workplace, a newly-released survey finds.

EducationOnly 20 percent of business leaders gave the K-12 education system a grade of A or B for job market preparation. 

The survey was part of a broader study conducted by MassINC Polling Group for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), with support from AIM and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. The survey included CEO interviews and focus groups with senior executives and HR administrators. Many AIM member employers participated in the study.

The majority of employers surveyed said the public schools need significant change ” 52 percent called for moderate change and 32 percent for major change, while only 10 percent chose minor or no change. The priorities for business in school reform include effectiveness of teachers (63 percent), partnerships between companies and higher education (55 percent), availability of technology in the schools (52 percent), and access for all students to computer science (49 percent).

The need for more partnerships to give students hands-on experience and awareness of career opportunities is a recurring theme that gave the study its title: “Let’s get together.”

The employer study was released by MBAE in tandem with another report, The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years, [full report; executive summary] prepared by, a partnership of international education experts. The New Opportunity concludes that districts, schools and instruction must be transformed if students are to compete successfully in the global economy and if Massachusetts is to remain a hub of innovation. 

 The report calls for a new approach to education reform, one that moves away from state mandates and compliance to one that drives authority and accountability down to the schools and creates conditions in which schools continuously advance their own performance.

MBAE, AIM’s longtime partner in education reform, plans to launch a campaign to build support for meaningful changes outlined in the report.

Richard C. Lord, president and CEO of AIM, endorsed the findings and urged employers to become engaged in the campaign to improve educational outcomes.

“High quality public schools are the bedrock of our knowledge-based economy. The job of sustaining Massachusetts’ global leadership in innovation belongs to everyone, and that will require a thoughtful, long-range plan to maintain our competitive advantages, including our education system.”