Since its inception, Generation Next has held as its foundation a cradle-to-career framework. Stretching from kindergarten readiness through post-secondary graduation, the five steps frame the successful preparation and integration of all young professionals into the workplace. And while each particular chapter of preparation requires focused care and attention, likewise do the actual passages between stages require nuanced nurturing.
The many steps in a student’s preparation do not exist in a vacuum, however. Educational success requires complementing knowledge with pathways toward its application. Thus, learning can translate into robust real-world connections — connections that will enable transition from student to professional.
As a part of a holistic, all-in approach to address our educational and community crisis, Generation Next partners with leaders in various professional spheres: education, community, government and business. These leaders work in concert to identify and adopt successful programs that are proven to work. The latter of the four spheres – business – provides precisely the sort of bridge necessary to illuminate possibilities and connections at a pivotal moment of translation for students.
To that end, 3M was recently honored for their work addressing this need with the 2013 Citizens Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center. Students who enter science, engineering, or business careers often know someone in that field. 3M saw an opportunity to address this need in its own back yard: St. Paul is home to both 3M’s Global Headquarters and 39,000 students attending Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS). Of those 39,000 students three out of every four students live in poverty. If that is not an already striking statistic, seventy-five percent of them are students of color and forty percent live in homes where English isn’t the first language.
For the last 10 years, 3M has been putting concerted effort into a program called STEM to address this issue. At its core, 3M’s STEM strategy consists of three parts:
- Investing in district-wide curriculum with science specialists coaching teachers to ensure a consistent curriculum
- Providing informal learning opportunities for students through camps and after school programs such as Robotics and Renewable Energy Competition
- Solidfying the partnership with schools near 3M by involving 3M scientists and engineers as in-class eMentors, sharing their skills and career inspiration and bridging connections from education to career
The results are staggering. 2012 student surveys that evaluated 3M’s mentoring show that 92% of the children involved in the STEM program indicated they learned the importance of career skills, 81% learned interviewing skills, and 77% understood how education relates to future careers. Additionally, from 2004 to 2011, district dropout rates were cut in half. And lastly, in 2013, at the annual recognition lunch for the top 10 students at its partner high schools, all 20 students were majoring in sciences or business and enrolled at top-ranked universities such as Tufts University, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, and Rochester Institute of Technology.
As a part of a complex web of moving variables, contributions like that of 3M provide an integral connective force between education and career. Generation Next is deeply grateful for the important contribution that organizations like 3M provide. As a part of the greater whole, it is a deeply valuable factor in ensuring our efforts also address the necessary translation of abilities and connections so that our cradle through career approach does just that: fostering students cradle through career.