Schools to Business: How Can We Better Prepare Students?

High school senior Kam Bush shares ideas generated at his table during a brainstorming session on skills and young workers

Grandville Public Schools leaders want to know what skills and traits employers are looking for in their young workers, and they’re going straight to the source to find out.

The district’s fundraising arm reached out recently to area businesses during a partnership breakfast hosted by the Grandville Education Foundation. It was part of the foundation’s goal to identify opportunities to collaborate and develop new and better approaches to teaching and learning.

“We think we know the skills kids need for today’s workforce, but we’re not 100 percent sure,” said Superintendent Roger Bearup. “We know the workforce has evolved. We know soft skills are so important for our students to have. We want to make sure we’re partnering with our local businesses to get them the skills they want and need them to have.”

Marcia Force, director of the Grandville Education Foundation
Marcia Force, director of the Grandville Education Foundation

More than 60 representatives from the district, area businesses, community members and civic groups attended the breakfast, along with student representatives who participated in brainstorming sessions.

The most important skills new workers should have, participants said, included initiative, patience, the ability to set goals and accept failure as opportunity for growth, and face-to-face communication.

To the question of what schools can do to better prepare the young workforce, suggestions included offering more job shadowing and classes in basic life skills such as personal finance and public speaking.

Senior Kalli Gibson said there’s a lot of anxiety amongst her peers to concentrate on schoolwork.

“We’re so focused on getting AP credits that will offset the cost of college that we’re not signing up for stuff like financial freedom that would give us those life skills,” Kalli said.

Jennifer Kok, a school parent and owner of Cookies by Design and Cupcakes by Design, said she was glad to be asked for input.

“I hire a lot of students,” she said. “Kids today are excited to work, but they do lack in some of those life skills. But they also want to do a good job… they don’t want to let anyone down.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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