Educators and schools have a lot resting on their shoulders as they prepare today’s children to be tomorrow’s thinkers, doers, innovators, and leaders. For one, the world for which they are preparing their students is a moving target—rapidly evolving, shifting, and generating ever more demands. Teachers are typically tasked to accomplish all this with meager and often outdated resources.
They’re not the only ones with skin in the game. After all, who has a greater stake in the quality and readiness of tomorrow’s workforce than today’s corporations? Partnerships can be highly symbiotic relationships and generate transformative results.
More than ever before, companies and nonprofits alike are engaging to empower teachers, address resource needs, guide thinking around curriculum evolution, and align skill mastery to bridge gaps in key high-demand areas like STEM. Here’s how they are achieving these goals.
The Feeling is Mutual
The Council for Corporate & School Partnerships offers a road map for how to build successful mutually beneficial partnerships. Key steps the Council suggests are assessing critical needs and measuring those needs against the prospective organization’s likely contributions; scanning your local network for active partners through conversations with parents, volunteers and local community groups; ensuring alignment of core values and objectives; and formalizing those understandings and objectives through a proposal or grant application.
The National School Boards Association, serving 13,000 member school boards, is also a great resource for partnership ideas. Its Technology Leadership Network (TLN) is one of several specialty partnership areas. The TLN is targeted to corporations interested in actively collaborating with school systems on technology policy, practice, and decisions.
Win-Win-Win: Students, Teachers, and External Partners
The working world functions around teamwork projects and problem-solving. Bringing this perspective as well as the collaborative learning frameworks into the classroom can propel both students and teachers forward.
For example, Chevron, a leading energy company, has made extensive commitments to STEM education. Through its support of Project Lead The Way (PLTW), Chevron helps transform ordinary K-12 classrooms and learning experiences into opportunities to hone the in-demand knowledge and skills required for a successful and productive career. Students benefit from hands-on, applied learning activities, and teachers receive professional development and tools to help bring content to life, while Chevron benefits from increasing numbers of future employees well-prepared for careers in science and engineering.
PLTW recently announced the introduction of STEM-based education curriculum to Pittsburgh area K-12 schools—an initiative to which Chevron pledged $900,000. Since 2009, Chevron has provided over $14 million in PLTW grants.
Along similar lines, Massachusetts-based MathWorks, a leading developer of mathematical computing software for engineers and scientists, partnered with neighboring i2 Learning, a nonprofit organization that works with world-class scientific and academic institutions. Together, they developed immersive STEM courses in areas such as robotics, engineering, genetics, and mathematics. So far, 15 Boston area schools have benefited from financial support and STEM curriculum development, including a “teach the teachers” pilot program offering STEM training to the city’s teachers. After receiving training and having learned the curriculum, courses such as Engineering Ice Cream, Building Vertical Farms, and Contagion: Pandemic Response were rolled out across the area.
Another example of industry partnerships is the Lenovo Scholar Network. Lenovo partners with select high schools to bring STEM learning through mobile application development. Lenovo offers instruction and assistance to ensure that the full potential of the program is reached and that teachers do not feel burdened. The program also brings in other resources for app building like the MIT App Inventor. For students, the year culminates in a national app competition.
Takeaway: Partnerships of all shapes and sizes can make a big impact on learning opportunities and outcomes and teacher professional development. Collaborating with educators is among the most strategic and rewarding ways for corporations and nonprofits alike to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. The hardest step is the first one. Schools need to take the initiative to engage their business communities.
1. “Empowering Partnerships” EdTech Digest. December 9, 2015.
2. “The Role That Business Can Play in Education” Huffington Post Tech United Kingdom. August 6, 2015.
3. “A How-To Guide for School-Business Partnerships” The Council for Corporate & School Partnerships. N.d.
4. “School Business Partnerships” Anchorage School District. N.d.
5. “Ways to Engage” National School Boards Association. 2016.
6. “Fixing Schools Outside of School” The Atlantic. February 4, 2016.
7. “Partners and Programs” Chevron. 2016.
8. “PLTW” Project Lead the Way. 2014.