From left, David Kirkpatrick, Marlin Page, Tae Yoo, John Wm. Covington, Hector Ruiz (all photos by Asa Mathat)
From left, David Kirkpatrick, Marlin Page, Tae Yoo
John Wm. Covington
Chancellor, Education Achievement Authority of Michigan
Founder, Sisters Code
Chairman, Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions, Inc. (ANS)
Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cisco
Founder and CEO, Techonomy
Institutions of modern education are mostly unchanged since the 19th century. But tomorrow’s workers cannot afford yesterday’s education. The nature and the form of education and learning need to be re-thought. Traditional curricula may remain a foundational building block, but many students will require a more tech-centric, skills-focused program. Coding could become as important as math. But we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture; liberal arts will remain indispensable, as will job-focused skill set acquisition. Luckily, educational innovation is rampant, so there are a plethora of new tools to better prepare workers for the 21st century.
Read the full transcript below. (Transcript by Realtime Transcription.)
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Kirkpatrick: And now we have our first session. So I would like to invite the panelists to join me on stage. It’s in keeping with our focus on—please come join me—in keeping with our focus on education, which is sort of the subtheme of this whole event, with our main themes being U.S. competitiveness, jobs, economic growth, and urban revival. When we did this conference last year, we realized that almost every session in some way or another touched on the challenge that education is posing for our country and the fact that we really don’t have a sufficiently trained workforce, we don’t have a sufficient mind-set for the economy we’re moving into. So we decided to really make a much deeper commitment to this theme of education and learning for this year’s Techonomy, which is why we are starting today’s conference with this session.
I think you are going to find that there’s a lot of really interesting things going on, but I also just would reiterate what I said when I first walked out this morning: We see this as the area which is, probably more than any other, urgent for the United States, that we are just not taking it seriously enough. A lot of other countries are, and I think when you hear some of our panelists, you may agree there’s some changes in thinking necessary.
So let me quickly introduce the panelists here. Marlin Page, founder of Sisters Code—she is somebody who’s going to talk about a new organization she’s just started. A long-time friend of mine, Tae Yoo of Cisco, vice president for Corporate Affairs in charge of their network academies, among other things, involved in a lot of their public work. John Covington, the chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, which if you don’t know about it, you will be blown away by some of the things he’s doing.
And finally, Hector Ruiz, another person who I’ve known for many years, chairman of Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions, which is a startup, but who had a very eminent career in business. He was CEO of AMD, among other things. And one of the things—I have written a lot about Hector. Hector was born and raised in Mexico, but had the good fortune of living on the border and going to school in Texas, even while he lived in Mexico. Then he graduated as valedictorian of his high school and ended up going to UT and Rice and became CEO of an American company. So he’s an unusual American CEO.
I want to start with you, John. Just talk a little about what you are doing and why, and what the Educational Achievement Authority is thinking about what a school ought to be.
Covington: Thanks, David. First of all, the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan is responsible for the persistently lowest achieving schools across the entire state, and we started the initiative here in Detroit with the first 15 schools, and we are using the EAA as a catalyst for change to serve as a disruption, if you will, positive disruption, to traditional public schooling and provide 21st-century prototype for teaching and learning.
We know that many of the students that we get, although they are three or more years below grade level, these young people exit their mother’s womb with a laptop in one hand and an iPod in the other, and we are still trying to teach them with chalk-and-talk fashion. And it is not getting them where they need to be.
So we utilize technology to provide a delivery system, instructional delivery system to get children back toward grade level. It’s a fascinating system. We don’t do grade levels, for example. No grades. There’s no kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, so forth and so on, that old model that we know that this country should have moved away from years ago, because it’s no longer applicable to 21st-century digital young people.
So rather than have grade levels, we have specific local curriculum frameworks that’s tailored to the unique needs of children. And they progress through these instructional levels based on mastery, rather than based on the amount of time that they sit in the seat. We start school on September the 4th, and students are not out until August the 6th.
Kirkpatrick: Did you pick up on that one? They only have 30 days off in the summer. We have taken it for the granted that, oh well, kids are off in the summer for three months. That’s some historical artifact from the 19th century, which is not relevant. What’s the average number of school days that some other countries we compete with?
Covington: That was really important for us to add the school days. If we say that in our mission that we want our students to be competitive with their international counterparts, and then you have China and Japan in school in excess of 230 days, and then our students on average is in school 180 days, and they are already three or more years below grade level, we can’t compete with that. So it was important that we added the school days and then added a structure where students could accelerate back toward grade level and beyond very quickly.
Kirkpatrick: So quickly, you are starting with the worst schools with this radical reform. Do you think ultimately this model has to spread to all the schools in Michigan and the United States? Or a model along these lines?
Covington: I think it’s a model that is going to have to change, period, whether it’s in Detroit or Chicago or Philadelphia or L.A. unified, it doesn’t matter. We believe it’s primarily as a result of our basic philosophical belief that the problem with American public schooling is that we’re still running this factory model of education that’s no longer useful to 21st-century digital native young people. They learn in different ways, they are wired different, so we have to teach in different ways.
Kirkpatrick: Very excited to have you here, so hope to hear more as we go on.
When I think about why Techonomy is focusing on education and why technology is a key issue in thinking about education, there’s two fundamental reasons: One is we have to teach students different things. Not just K through 12, but lifelong. But, number two, we have a whole new range of ways to teach that technology is providing for us that really are potentially poised to revolutionize the process.
But, Tae, I want you to talk a little about either or both of those things from the standpoint of one of the biggest global companies, Cisco. How does Cisco think about this and why are you so involved in education?
Yoo: There’s a historical reason. Cisco came out of Stanford University. And, you know, when you think about a lot of the great companies, many of them do come out of a partnership with the academic environment.
We look at education as really the lifeblood of our own sustainabilities as a company, because technology is important, but it ages and it ages quickly. It’s really the people behind that, that make it important, that make the company what it is, so the employee base becomes very important.
We approached education from a jobs perspective. So if you look at the fact that the latest data is that by 2020, over 90 percent of the jobs would be—would have some technology component, and probably 100 percent of the jobs would be technology enabled. But we wanted to do was to take a look at how to we create an environment for students, whether they are in middle school or whether it is a second career transition from the industrial economy to knowledge economy—how do you learn and participate, particularly in areas we have an expertise, which is networking? And that’s how the Networking Academy Program came about.
What’s interesting—we had a grandmother who was 83 years old, in the program, and then we had middle school students. And the reality of it was is that it didn’t really matter, as long as the curriculum was globally competitive.
So in 2002, I was in Afghanistan, and we opened the first net acad. And we had six women in the class. Now, the lowest score after the first semester was a 94. Which meant that they were as competitive as students in a private school in New York City, for instance, who were taking the same curriculum. And the point of it was the academy is not static either. You know, as new technologies and social media become available, you incorporate that into it. And I think that’s the really important piece of education—is agility and fluidity, because new ideas are forming and students, themselves, as they work collaboratively, come up with different solutions and find ways to apply what they are learning. That’s the focus, that education needs to be lifelong, fluid, agile, and adaptive.
Kirkpatrick: Thank you. Marlin, you, yourself, have a career that’s been in IT, but you’ve now—kind of picking up on some of the things that Tae talked about—decided you are committing yourself to really changing the mind-set of young people and old people, people, people, about how they ought to think about their own learning and what they ought to know about. Talk a little about what you are doing.
Page: Just to give you a little background, I started off as an aspiring mortician. I graduated from Wayne State University; go Warriors.
Thank you. But 25 years ago, and I’m dating myself, when I was in high school, I had no idea that technology was a choice for me. And I just kind of decided mortuary science was what I would do. As I was an aspiring mortician and middle school teacher, someone told me about a program at Compuware Corporation, where you could learn to program in seven different languages in 13 weeks. I’m up for the challenge, sure. And they pay you. And so I went and I did that.
And it was amazing just to see the lack of females in that environment. And so from there, I went on to do some other things in technology. And one thing I was tapped to do was to partner with the Microsoft Corporation. And so I traveled to encourage young girls to just consider the field of technology, just to consider that you can do something different, not saying you have to become a coder, but technology is prevalent in every industry, whatever you are going to do, then you can do that.
And so I thought about, you know, had I not learned untraditionally to code, my life would not be what it is right now. So I founded the—founded the company Sisters Code, which is two weeks old maybe, and—
Kirkpatrick: We got—
Kirkpatrick: We love what you are doing. We love you are a lifelong Detroiter on our opening panel, too. So thank you.
Let’s continue on all these themes. Hector, so you have a lot of interesting things about you, which I mentioned before. You are a geek; you are an engineer, been in the chip industry in your career. You now are really becoming an educational activist in a somewhat unpredictable way, or a way many people here might be surprised to learn about. So tell us what you are doing.
Ruiz: Well, first of all, thank you, David. One of the things I love about Techonomy is that there is optimism that we talk about. But optimism doesn’t mean—you don’t have to—you could wake up every morning with what I call a healthy level of discontent and still be an optimist.
One of the things that happens—I live in Austin, Texas, and I’m going to talk very narrowly about what’s going on in that part of the world because I think it’s probably applicable to the rest of the country. But we have gone through budget cuts. Texas is one of the bottom five states in education in terms of any measure that you choose, ranks at the bottom five. And usually when you have budget cuts, what they tend to do, they tend to hit hardest the people that are at the bottom of the pile, people that are in the underrepresented parts of the state, people of color, and so one of the thing that’s happened in the last few years through the budget cuts, immediately the people—the schools that are mostly Latino or black end up having a disproportionate amount of cutting that occurs.
One of the things that I became aware of in the last few years was that the place where they are hit the most was in the humanities. People wanted to still teach math and science, but they wanted to cut the humanities. That really bothered me, because I’m a strong believer that a whole person cannot be a whole person unless you have a broad exposure to education.
And so I got involved with a group of people. We formed a non-profit called Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, HAPA for short. And we partnered with a school in East Austin called the East Austin Preparatory Academy, which is 95 percent Latino and black kids. It’s the most fascinating place for you to see. If you ever go to East Austin, you are going to find this place that sits right in the middle of East Austin. And all around, the buildings are covered with graffiti, and the East Austin Proprietary Academy is the only building in that place where there is absolutely no graffiti.
The kids that go there, we partnered with them to create an after-school program that is really rigorous. It teaches them music and art. And you have to sign a contract; your parents have to sign a contract; you have to go two or three hours after school and all day Saturday, and these kids—we have a long waiting list. As a matter of fact, I’m shocked that the interest that has been expressed in this, and we haven’t been able to serve all the kids that have an interest in doing that.
But, to me, the most fascinating statistics of this—this has been going on a few years—are two things: One, these kids have never seen an instrument in their lives, never even knew what a clarinet was. All of a sudden, within six months, they are performing with the Austin Symphony Orchestra and playing all kinds of music. It is just fascinating to see these kids. That’s impressive.
The second thing I found most impressive, too, is all these kids that sign up for the programs are doing 20 to 30 percent better in science and math than the kids that didn’t sign up. And, to me, that just continues to underline the importance of humanities, and particularly in the underrepresented groups, who tend to be the ones hurt the most through budget cuts.
Kirkpatrick: Those stats—you were talking to me this morning about this report that was just issued by—
Ruiz: National Academy of Science & Arts issued a report this year called the Heart of the Matter. So you could look it up. It’s an amazing report. It gives you a lot of statistics and important facts about how important it is that we don’t neglect humanities. We’re thrust to try to get more competitive in sciences and math.
What’s important to note in this report; it underlines the importance—we are definitely moving into a world where everybody needs to do things on the Internet, all our banking, purchasing, all these things. And we have to become somewhat conversant enough so that we are good citizens of this country.
Good citizens means you understand what’s being done, you understand how things operate, you understand the people you are voting for in government, so that you are taking into account the things. And for that reason, there has to be a competitive level of understanding of basic science and math.
But it is critically important, as the report concludes, is that while science and math can provide some level of motivation and preparation for the world, nothing can inspire you like being exposed to the humanities, social studies, art, music, et cetera. And that is really critical that we don’t neglect this going forward so that the citizens can truly focus on—and the conclusion of that report is life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is strongly founded on the idea of a broad education exposure to all our kids.
Kirkpatrick: I see you nodding. What’s your response?
Yoo: When people talk about technologies, there’s two buckets. One is technology as a tool to do something else with it. And then the other is technology as the destination, so that you are creating something. And both of these are highly influenced by the creative side of people. Because what people don’t understand is that before you start to code, you actually design and architect what you are trying to build.
Then when you get—run into a stumbling block, while you are coding, it is your creative ability and the collaborative nature with other parts of your organization or your team to help break through those blockages.
So the whole point is that you are creating to actually do something, that what you produce helps you do something, and it’s part of the humanities and your life experiences that this should enhance.
There are—there is, as in academic, learning for learning sake, but the majority of it is really about applying toward specific solutions in our society.
Ruiz: The one thing that I think is important to try to understand is that universities today are beginning to look a little bit like the government. They are being lobbied by businesses to do things, which may not necessarily be an education. And so when the universities are short of funds, and somebody comes along with a business proposition to say, if you teach these courses, I will give you money, but generally speaking, those courses are in the rear view mirror. People—universities really should be looking at 10, 20 years, what’s going to be—if we take things too extreme, as we tend to do in this country, if we teach everybody coding, we would be creating the government worker of the future. So we have to be careful we don’t influence universities in the wrong way.
One of the pet peeves I have—and I had the opportunity to influence that a little bit, because I’m on the board of several universities—that is they’ve got to focus on education as it was intended to be. That’s 10, 20 years out. Be creative, be—that’s the only chance in your life you are ever going to have to really think outside the box. Once you get out, you are done.
Kirkpatrick: I wanted to ask your thoughts on this, John. Is the question, teaching people to get the jobs that are going to be there? Or is it about teaching them to learn to think and to be creative? And how do you approach that in your program?
Covington: First of all, we think is to teach kids to be critical and analytical thinkers. We want to prepare children for the job market, when you consider the fact many of the jobs that our students will enter into haven’t even been created yet. And so that’s ongoing. So we have to make sure that students are completing their secondary school experience, not only college and career ready, but what we call “next generation ready”—that they are walking across the stage and we place in their hands a diploma that means something and is going to take them through the rest of their lives.
We utilize heavily—our platform is based heavy on technology where students are required to learn, practice, and then apply. They create several evidences that they will present to the teacher that demonstrate that they have mastered the requisite skills they need to have before they move to the next level. For the—for some people, they are confused about what we do and they think we sit children in front of a computer all day. That is not our system. The computer is nothing more than a tool for teaching and learning, pretty much like the textbook was for us when we were in school.
Kirkpatrick: So does this contradict anything, you think? You are doing Sisters Code. How do you contextualize what you are doing in terms of this idea of also being a critical thinker and learning to be creative and really creating whole people who also can contribute to the economy?
Page: It’s just the essence of who I am. I learned to code untraditionally. Before that, my formal degree is public relations, so I can communicate well—I think.
Kirkpatrick: Seems like it.
Page: If not, let me know after this. But I think I can, so public relations, then I have mortuary science. Right.
Kirkpatrick: We aren’t going to go there.
Page: I didn’t come to the table knowing how to code. So I agree, it is this whole person. So when I’m speaking with women or young girls, for instance, my daughter, 14 years old, loves photography. I’m a techie. So how can I take her love for photography and introduce technology in there? So she’s learning it without knowing that she’s really learning it, because it’s a lot of fun.
So it doesn’t contradict at all. I do believe that you have to be a whole person and it’s not about just teaching people coding. So with Sisters Code, we have made it like a circle of transformation. After you learn how to code, so what? What do you do next? Do you want to even do this? So for us, it is empowering women and young girls just to know that they can do something different and it might not be coding, but if you are able to learn this thing, then it opens up a world to you that you can just do something different. Just consider that you can do something a little differently.
So no, it doesn’t contradict at all. I don’t think—when I learned to code, I sat next to people who had degrees in computer science and I could—my first assignment was at Ford Motor Company, we were developing software, and I could sit right with them and I could develop code right along with them, and they had a formal four-year degree in it.
So definitely. I think unconventional is the way to go.
Kirkpatrick: Unfortunately, it makes it sound really hard, because we have to teach young people and old people all this stuff, and so I want to turn back to you, Tae, a representative of one of the giant companies. Do you think that corporations understand the scope of the challenge and are doing enough to help the United States push its educational system forward, and if not, what should they be doing?
Yoo: I think corporations do understand the magnitude of I like to think opportunity rather than challenge, and I think that corporations are working with the public sector to try and make some changes, and we still have a lot of work to do. I think, though, that public sectors also—and you see it here in Detroit—really focus on developing the economy. And so we are looking at it from the economy backwards. Educators are looking at it from making sure that you have the humanities and the basic capability for lifelong learning, the adaptability, and then there’s this sweet spot called innovation—both of them.
For corporations, market share is won and lost during market transitions. And I think you saw that first-hand in Detroit when you looked at the auto industry. So what we are looking for is, how do we continue the cycle of innovation that students are around with the ability to adapt and be innovative? We talk about the Internet of Everything. Right now—which is the fact that right now everybody is focused on getting devices connected to the Internet, the Internet of Things.
But the reality is, the Internet of Everything, it’s a convergence of not just data, but also the devices and people and processes, and bringing them together and being able to innovate solutions in terms of health care and education. I think in Michigan, health care is a major growth sector in terms of jobs, and if you were just to look at the healthcare industry, the providers and the acquisitions that they have made over the last several years of small startup companies, that would give you insight into some of the innovative things that are happening. So it’s a combination of free thinking and innovation, but also looking at grounding it around some sort of a framework, around maybe a mega-industry or building a cluster, something that Detroit has known how to do for a very long time—but remade in the 20th century.
Kirkpatrick: So you think a lot about what are the industries that are going to matter in 10 years.
So, Hector, you’ve spent a lot of time with CEOs. You were one. Do you think CEOs are doing enough to tackle this issue in the United States? Companies they lead?
Ruiz: I think part of the issue is, today, let’s talk about public companies for a moment. But today, the pressure on CEOs to do the things that they are expected to do, such as deliver profitability quarter after quarter, is so intense and so immense. I think the amount of time and energy they have to devote to looking at the 10-, 20-year educational system frankly is very small. I’m not blaming them. I know—it’s just the way the system is today.
There are a few mavericks out there. I think John Chambers happens to be one at Cisco—who really have the chutzpah, whatever you want to call it, to really stand up and think ahead, more so than some of the others that I know.
Kirkpatrick: Do you see sufficient leadership emerging from anywhere to really solve these problems?
Ruiz: I think there’s a new breed of CEOs today in some of the new companies that seem to be more concerned about fear—their technology and their products can actually make the world better, i.e., education being one of them. So I’m optimistic that the new breed of CEOs will be far better than the one that I was part of, and in trying to see, as part of the responsibility, the need to help our country become better, not just deliver the—
Kirkpatrick: Even in the products and services they are creating.
Ruiz: That’s correct.
Kirkpatrick: Let’s get the house lights up. If anyone has comments or questions, please go to the mics.
Covington: I think, Dave, that corporations, CEOs, I think they are acutely aware of the problems, particularly with public education. I think they also sometimes get frustrated with the—for lack of a better word, the product that’s coming out of America’s public schools. And when I say “they” understand—because if you look at the work space and the manner in which those employees for corporations work, like through collaboration and a number of—it’s totally different than the workplace in corporate space 20, 30, 40 years ago.
But if you look at our public schools, you will see that—I often use the story of Wally and Beaver Cleaver and their friend who lived across the street, Eddie Haskell. If we were somehow able to resurrect, Wally, Beaver and Eddie and have them walk the corridors of our schools, the only thing that might strike them as a little odd is the ethnicity of the children in the building and maybe the strange transistor radio that the kids are walking up and down the halls with. But as soon Wally and Beaver go into in the classroom and sit down, they are going to feel a lot more at home than the current kids. That’s—the reason for that is, we haven’t changed.
So the corporate world, they have made that transition, and we still are lagging behind, moving forward in horse-and-buggy fashion. And if we are going to help our nation become or maintain its economic viability, then we have to use technology in more creative and innovative ways in our public schools.
Page: I like to challenge the thought of the CEO being the person that’s the catalyst for the change. Where are the radical people? Where are we that are going to CEOs and changing them. When I worked at Compuware, they would laugh at me, but I would say where is Pete? I need to find him. Peter Karmanos, who was the CEO at the time. There’s things we need to do. I live in the state of Detroit, I was born here. I have been here 43 years, this is my place, so there are things that need to change, or things that are happening.
So someone has to be radical, because he is thinking about the bottom line, which he should be, but where are the people, where are the people that aren’t afraid, that are going to go and challenge people to say, these things need to change.
When I was deputy CIO for the City of Detroit, I’ll never forget, I came in there and I’m like, yes, we can do some things. And all I wanted to do was to give our citizens a chance to interact with city government via the Internet, and I will never forget, there was a man there who said people in Detroit don’t want to do that. They don’t want to pay property taxes online. I can’t tell you what I said then, because this is a public forum.
Kirkpatrick: I’m glad you said it, whatever it was.
Page: And we were able to do it, but it was tough; it was years in the making.
So I would challenge us that want to talk about the CEO or the leader—we have to become the leader, catalyst for change.
Kirkpatrick: We have a bunch of people over here. Come to the mic, make it fast. Get a quick question, a quick response.
Audience Member: A comment. That is, the cultural community is part of the revolution of which you speak. I have worked with Henry Ford here in Dearborn, Michigan. And we are literally preparing to launch a learning revolution. We worked with Dr. Covington and the EAA. We have developed a curriculum to try to bring innovation and innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit as a habit from kids grades 6 through 12.
We have actual curricula that we have now being used in public schools and private schools and home schools, universities as well. So I hope that when Techonomy is in Detroit next year, you invite some representatives from Henry Ford to talk about how we’ve got this revolution ignited and led here in Detroit.
Kirkpatrick: I love that idea. And make sure you talk to me or someone else on the team.
Yoo: I would like to follow on both these comments. First of all, I think CEOs are rebels. They are—a lot of them are really challenging, particularly the younger generation, the newer companies that are coming, but also some of the larger companies. They are looking for a partner in the public school system as well.
Kirkpatrick: Yeah, there’s not too many John Covingtons out there.
Yoo: Exactly. So they are looking for a partner on the other side. Because you can get good talent anywhere in the world these days. And the biggest concern that we have is this big divide that’s happening and this larger proportion of what traditionally were middle class families are not middle class anymore, and the job prospects are dependent on educational attainment, not just a degree, but capabilities.
But on the other hand, the good news, because I am an optimist, is the fact that—
Kirkpatrick: We only allow optimists here.
Yoo: Exactly, but technology is optimism. This gentleman said there is a lot of work happening, there’s a lot of pilot, where it’s a little chaotic and in the storming phases, but there are a lot of proof of concepts out there, that are more than just a year or two old all over the country. So I still think at some point, they should and will come together.
Kirkpatrick: What I like—why Techonomy is in Detroit, what John is doing is radical and you said there was something in Tennessee and in New Orleans. Other than that, there’s nowhere else in the country doing anything analogous to what you are doing. So New Orleans, which was devastated by Katrina; Detroit, which is devastated—these are the places that recognize, we’ve got to do things differently, and you are creating a model for the whole country, which I think is fantastic. I want to get to more people here.
Bell: Hello. I’m Victoria Bell, I am a Wayne State University graduate, and I am also on the alumni board. I’m also on the broad for Green Living Science that partners with Detroit public schools to teach them curricula and activities through recycling.
I’m wonder why there’s no representation of the youth of the city here, when they are our future in our whole—I guess this is part of a—a great part of what we need to include in future venues, seminars, forums. We need to have youth here to get some of their opinions, because they will be developing the technology, they will be using the technology, and they will be dictating what will be bought and sold. So we need that representation on a wider scale.
Kirkpatrick: I love comments. I love that comment. We don’t have to respond to it, except I will say, we do have some young people here; we do need more. And it’s a good thing to challenge us with. Do what we can do. We have a bunch of young people. Please wave. We’ll have more. Get us more. Help us do that next year, will you, please. Next.
Miller: Adam Miller. I just want—quick question about vocational training. The Michigan Manufacturing Association has a great summer program, but they’re only able to do 20 kids a summer, to train kids in how to work a CNC machine. Now there’s only one manual—
Kirkpatrick: CNC is what?
Miller: I know as much as you.
Kirkpatrick: Well, don’t use the acronym if you don’t know what it means.
Miller: Every plastic ejection molding machine that Husky makes, they teach the kids how to program the machines, because there’s only one manual job, only one guy sweeping the floor, everyone else is programming one of these machines.
How can we better vocational training in this country to create, like the lady from Cisco was speaking about, middle class jobs? And so we have a lot of great middle class jobs and, especially as this manufacturing renaissance continues, what can we do in the vocational space?
Kirkpatrick: Maybe one answer is for you to just quickly describe the Network Academies and what they do. Cisco has made a huge commitment to that kind of—
Yoo: It actually started out as a vocational—the 21st-century vocational occupation, going from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. And what we found was that—I used to run the Channels Organization, which is our distribution channel, and we had a training program that would enable our partners to be able to service our customers as well as we did directly. And after they got a certification, one of our other partners would recruit these certified individuals—and, Hector, you probably saw the same thing happening. And that’s when we realized there was a dearth of expertise out there. That’s when we decided we’d work with states. So we started in six states in the U.S., and it quickly turned into something, to be quite frank, grew beyond what we envisioned.
It is in 165 countries, and the thing that’s interesting, and Henry Ford is actually one of the community colleges that runs this program, is that we don’t charge for it, and it’s at the willingness of the institution; they fund the teacher and the room. We will give the curriculum and all updates free of charge, and do some training, but it’s a real public-private partnership. And I think that that’s the real sustainability of vocational jobs. It is a partnership. You can’t depend on public sector just to throw things out there, because you need that healthy tension.
We like it when the schools come back and say, this works, this doesn’t work, this is culturally appropriate for us, this is not. So you need that healthy tension. So it ultimately has to result in a community-owned, locally-owned, locally-supported, but partnered with the corporations. That would be one answer.
Covington: We still live in what I would call an elitist society, where we think the only way to ascend to the American dream is through the traditional four-year university pathway, and that’s not true. We are going to have to do a much better job in promoting career and technical or vocational education, because that’s really the wave of the future. And it is not necessarily the traditional four-year collegiate degree.
We’ve partnered with Henry Ford, Wayne County Community College, and Focus Hope to make sure that students have direct access to 21st-century job skills when they graduate and then they are able to complete their secondary school experience while concurrently completing an associate’s degree and a chosen career path. So once they graduate high school, if they don’t want to go on to college, they can go directly into the workforce next generation.
Kirkpatrick: I could see all four of you partnering in one way or another. I have to think that Sisters Code and Network Academies could be—
Yoo: We are in some of the same institutions.
Kirkpatrick: This conversation could go on all day and in some cases it will. Thank you all for coming. It’s been a terrific conversation to start our dialogue.
Page: Thank you.