A group of policymakers from Capitol Hill, the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, and the National School to Work Office met with representatives of 25 intermediary organizations funded by the National School to Work Office to discuss the role of intermediary organizations in education and workforce development. School-to-Work (STW) intermediaries play an important role connecting schools, employers, and other community resources for the benefit of local youth. They convene local partners, connect young people to learning opportunities outside the classroom and frequently bridge the gulf between how employers and educators view their needs and responsibilities.
Discussion Group Summary
Richard Kazis, Jobs for the Future, one of the organizations that is helping to oversee the STW Intermediary project, provided some general information about the range of organizations that serve as intermediary organizations. Intermediaries originate from different community activities, such as education reform efforts, workforce development, and youth development efforts. They vary widely in terms of budget and size, with a range of an annual budget of $100,000 to $5 million and staff size of 1 to 50. Despite their origin and size, their goals are the same – to help students learn and to help young people connect to success in the labor market. Kazis said intermediaries not only convene and connect organizations to discuss common work, they keep people at the table, and they keep them coming back to the table when collaboration or integration of programs becomes difficult. STW intermediaries provide overall marketing and communication assistance and help develop a common language across the employer and educator communities. Kazis mentioned one challenge the intermediaries face: they feel they are at the beginning stages of their work, but they are associated with a movement that is nearing its end (the National School to Work Opportunities Act expires in 2001). They see the value of what they do and they intend to keep doing this work, even after the STWOA expires, but are concerned about sustainability and support through other policy avenues. Intermediaries feel they have an important role to play with the implementation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), standards-based reform efforts, and youth transitions. Kazis asked, “If you agree that learning must occur outside the classroom, then how do you provide that opportunity for kids? You need intermediary organizations to help do that.”
Steve Trippe, New Ways to Work, another organization that is helping to oversee the STW Intermediary project, briefly described the basic functions that STW intermediaries provide. First, they work with schools and training institutions to ensure that quality professional development and teacher externships are available. Second, they work with employers to accomplish the real work of creating STW partnerships and work-based learning (WBL) opportunities. Once the CEO has bought into the concept of STW and WBL, intermediaries support the line managers, human resource development managers, and connect with labor organizations as they design and implement programs. Third, they work with young people themselves using age- and stage-appropriate programs and activities to help youth access the information they need about career opportunities and to help them make the transition between school and work. Fourth, intermediaries look at the quality of the STW program, collect data, adjust strategies, and promote continuous improvement for the system. Trippe ended by saying, “The kind of system we envision won’t happen if we let schools do it on their own, because schools care about and focus on teaching and learning. And it won’t happen if we rely solely on employers, because they are engaged in the business of business. If we don’t have a way to connect kids in a seamless web of services, and if we don’t use data to improve that system, STW will fail. Only intermediaries can perform these four tasks.”
Representatives from three intermediary organizations provided a brief overview of their work. Stacey Denaux, Executive Director, The Education Foundation, Charleston, SC, said that eighty-five percent of the residents in her area view career preparation as the number one priority of public education. The Chamber of Commerce has emerged as a leader in improving the quality of public education, which is now a major focus of its mission. The schools had been at a loss on how to communicate with employers about the help they needed, and employers had been at a loss on how to communicate with educators about the skills they really need. Now the Chamber serves as the interpreter and translator between the education and employer communities. “We have developed trust and credibility with the schools and have gotten to the place where we work with the schools as partners, not as someone doing something to them.”
John Fitzpatrick, Capital Area Training Foundation, Austin, TX, said The City of Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce started the Capital Area Training Foundation (CATF) six years ago, and it has now become the education/labor branch of the Chamber. Funding comes from various public and private sources. Fitzpatrick said, “We are somewhere between a consultant and a dating service, we make matches between employers and colleges.” The CATF works in two areas: the implementation of school-to-work programs and broader workforce development. Its work is focused on industry clusters, which include: semiconductors, construction trades (working with disadvantaged and incarcerated individuals), auto technicians, health care, criminal justice, and hospitality. CATF provides a great deal of professional development, especially to help math and science teachers understand how to use contextual teaching and learning. CATF also provides scholarships to help students attend college, and they hold college and career fairs where employers can develop stronger relationships with colleges and universities.
Elaine Mondschein, Executive Vice President, The Learning Exchange, Kansas City, indicated that The Learning Exchange, founded in 1972, manages and staffs the STW intermediary. The original mission of The Learning Exchange was to enable educators to imagine, investigate, and create new educational strategies to help students achieve. The Learning Exchange develops quality programs for students as well as learning opportunities for teachers. In 1992, the community identified education as the number one priority and asked the Learning Exchange to help garner the support of the private sector to push for change in public schools. In 1998, The Learning Exchange was asked to manage the STW grants for both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, which encompass over 60 school districts. Given the spread of the metropolitan area, The Learning Exchange is now engaged in a process to develop a strategy to determine what kinds of business involvement in STW programs are best conducted at the regional level, and which ones at the local level.
During the discussion period, the AYPF moderator asked about the involvement of the STW intermediaries with the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). A few comments follow:
- In my county, there is a long stable relationship between STW and the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), but the amount of work required to bring a Youth Council into play makes it too difficult for STW to be a part of it or to be the cornerstone of the Youth Council. There are just not enough resources on the WIA side to help STW and intermediaries create the kinds of programs and options that might be called for under Youth Councils. – Intermediary Representative
- In our city, we are both the workforce board and the STW board, so we have no problems linking our efforts. The Youth Council aspirations are enormous, and also wonderful. But the WIA money is still focused on program contracting or administration. While I have total control over the money, there is nothing to suggest support for intermediary activities. We will need dedicated money to support intermediaries because without their help, the work required under the Youth Councils will not happen. And just declaring that the work under Youth Councils will happen is not going to make it happen. – Intermediary Representative
- WIA can only be used to serve certain demographic groups, but Youth Councils will have a comprehensive strategy for all kids. Our superintendent of schools and a representative of the business community will chair our Youth Council. They will set benchmarks and standards for all students in the system. We value WIA because it allows support and extra services, such as tutoring, that will allow kids to succeed. We will work to raise funds from the private sector to provide funds to make the transition from STW to our new system. – Intermediary Representative
- Employers are being approached for involvement in WIA from numerous programs and angles and are getting confused. We can bring employers to the table, but there needs to be an awareness that employers need to contribute in a variety of ways. Employers can be involved at the national, state, and local levels, and their needs and involvement will vary depending on where they get involved. – Employer Representative
- When the STW funds expire, there will not be enough funding from the Workforce Investment Act to support and push a broader agenda for collaboration and intermediaries. – Intermediary Representative
- We are more worried about the process of closing down JTPA and STW, rather than being as much interested in gearing up for WIA. – Intermediary Representative
Question: What is the value of STW Intermediaries and how do you demonstrate that value to policymakers?
- STW was venture capital, and employers recognize the return on that investment. They see better-trained and skilled graduates. Employers are putting both time and money into high schools because they see the importance of career development. In a large urban school district in our area, the city and county governments are contributing funds to hire a STW coordinator, because they see the return on their investment in their schools. – Intermediary Representative
- In CA, we are beginning to track academic performance of students and can show that students in career academies are out-performing students in other schools. We have data on increased college-going rates and reduced dropout rates. The hard evidence is there. The difficulty is tracing back the increases in student performance to the involvement of the intermediaries. – Intermediary Representative
- The purpose of school is so much more than standardized tests, we should recognize that and measure it. We need to see proof of the worth of intermediaries. One suggestion is to bring Members of Congress and their staff to see the programs and to meet with business leaders who support the programs. Show them the interaction at the community level, and show how business is involved in successful programs. – Congressional Staff
- Measuring the value of an intermediary is hard because no one has spent any money on it. We don’t have our heads around dealing with standards-based reform and how STC can help reduce the dropout rate. This is the time that the STWOA should kick in, to curtail dropout rates and help students. That would be a powerful measure. – Intermediary Representative
- In Philadelphia, the impact on local business has been great. Every student in a work-based learning program has a trained workplace mentor who spends 8-16 hours a week with him/her on projects. This time commitment really adds up and speaks to other employers. – Intermediary Representative
Question: What about continued sources of support to sustain intermediaries?
- Demonstrating that these relationships exist at the community level is important. Partnerships between programs and organizations are a priority in Congress. It’s not too soon to develop a strategy to get your voices heard when amendments to the WIA are considered. – Congressional Staff
- More work needs to be done on the terminology used in WIA. Intermediaries need to communicate the right terminology to Congress so it could be included in other federal education and training laws. The term “intermediary” does not exist in other federal legislation. – Congressional Staff
- Intermediary work is neither administrative nor programmatic, so it can’t be funded with either of those pots of funds, which are usually the only two sources of funds for federal education and training laws. We need a different category to support intermediaries. – Intermediary Representative
- The next Congress (2001-2002) will work on the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program (welfare reform) and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Education Act, so those will be the places to look for support for intermediaries as well. – Congressional Staff
This discussion, held on March 28, 2000 on Capitol Hill, was moderated and reported by Betsy Brand.
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