Recently, a new idea has been making its way through workforce education circles. That idea, called One System, may be the next step in education reform. Here is a quick overview of what One System is and why it's important.
The first thing you should know about One System is that it exists to solve a problem in the American workforce. In America, education is too divided because students in K-12 prepare for college and students in college prepare for their careers. However, they're all in different "worlds" and rarely interact with each other.1
Simply put, One System fosters the idea that education and career preparation are closely related and dependent on each other. The philosophy behind the One System program affirms that there should be more efforts to integrate K-12, college, and workforce education. Under One System, education is treated as a single system for preparing students for their careers and adult lives. Instead of holding off workforce education until college, it focuses on engaging students with future careers beforehand. It also emphasizes creating career pathways early on and opening students up to opportunities.1
The changing face of the workforce is one of the reasons that there is a push for reform.1 According to a 2015 study by Pew Research, Millennials made up 34% of the workforce in 2015, compared with 34% Gen X-ers and 29% Baby Boomers. Currently, the U.S. is seeing a multi-generational workforce like it's never seen before. With that said, One System is based on the idea that these reforms will help bring these generations closer together in collaboration.
It's eighteen years into the 21st century, and many communities understand the importance of workforce education. Major areas have their share of community programs and activities that help develop their future workforce. These efforts tie nicely into the One System concept.
A good example is the Orpheum Children's Science Museum (OCSM) in Champaign, the result of community action to save a local theater. The museum's main goal is not only to get kids into STEM, but to prepare them for future careers. It offers programs that encourage young students to start seriously planning their careers.1
Another recent effort is Peoria's Pathways to Prosperity (P2P). The program's main goal is to close the "skills gap" in Illinois. "Skills gap" refers to employer needs and job seeker skills not matching up. Employers often struggle to find workers who meet their needs, while job seekers struggle to find jobs that match their skills. Because of this, P2P helps students finish high school and college.2
Additionally, One Summer Chicago will be serving the Chicago area starting this July. It's a program that aims to get young people involved in the workforce early on. It also helps them make connections that will help them along in their future career.
If you're interested in this topic and you're looking for further reading, Continuance Magazine might be for you. A new issue was published recently that discusses One System in more detail. You can view and download all issues for free here.