MINT HILL – An advocacy group for local students is looking for help from area business leaders.
Bill Anderson, executive director of MeckEd, spoke at a recent meeting of the Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce about the importance of bringing local businesses and students together for the good of both. MeckEd, a nonprofit focused on public education, works throughout the community to educate people about issues facing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“I think we have a real problem with public education in this country,” Anderson said. “We need to think differently about public education. … Right now, only 60 percent (of high school students) actually go to college,” and of that 60 percent, only 59 percent go on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
But Anderson said people need to realize college isn’t the answer for everyone, and expecting every student to go to college after high school could be harmful for some students’ education.
“We’re not doing a great job for kids not going to college,” Anderson said, pointing to a need to focus on the 40 percent of students who don’t go on to a traditional four-year university. That “traditional” process isn’t working, Anderson said, and other countries have had success through other means. Germany, for example, had a 2 percent unemployment rate during the recession because the country had some of the same measures in place MeckEd is advocating for in the Charlotte area – mainly the notion that not every student needs to enroll in a traditional four-year university to succeed, Anderson said.
“MeckEd believes students must graduate high school, college-(ready) or career-ready,” he added.
While that might not mean a four-year college for all, it does mean post secondary education for all because, “many professions now require a two-year certificate, or qualification, which are available through Central Piedmont Community College,” Anderson said.
MeckEd hopes businesses will voluntarily take on high school students to give them experience in specific fields. While that real-world experience is vital for success, Anderson said many businesses are apprehensive about working with high school students.
MeckEd’s Career Pathways project is currently working in four schools – one of which is Independence High School – but can’t expand further as of now due to funding.
Students who enter MeckEd’s program are encouraged to complete 34 hours of training in five months. There are more than three-dozen businesses that partner with MeckEd, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Siemens, Carolinas HealthCare System, Livingston & Haven and Novant Health. Businesses that partner with MeckEd are able to dictate the requirements needed from each student such as drug tests and background checks. Transportation is provided for the students.
MeckEd provides three different options for businesses, each tailored to how much the business wants to get involved and what it can offer to students.
The beginner option gives students the opportunity for career exploration and preparation. This option involves guest speakers at the school, workshops, seminars, site visits and job shadowing.
The intermediate option involves paid or unpaid internships, and students can earn a quarter of a school credit per the 34 hours.
The expert option involves apprenticeship and a defined pathway for students who want to enter the workforce in a particular field. Apprenticeships are paid, and the student will enroll in related post-secondary courses.
Find more information about MeckEd, including how to become involved in the program, at www.mecked.org.