Britain Sees Valuable Lessons To Be Learned From Industry-Education Compacts in U.S.
While American educators look increasingly to Europe for model programs to ease the school-to-work transition, one country there has been been returning the glances, finding innovative answers in the United States to its workforce-training problems.
Employment officials in Britain say the Europeans have much to learn from the education-industry partnerships on this side of the Atlantic. The British are adapting ideas from local compacts in cities such as Boston and from the Jobs for America's Graduates program. (See story, page 1.)
This school year, Britain's Employment Department began implementing the student-association element of Jobs for America's Graduates in seven northern cities, according to Trevor Tucknutt, who heads the department's compact-support division.
He said young people at risk of dropping out of school or remaining unemployed are encouraged to join employment clubs--called Compact Plus Clubs--that work on skills needed to get and hold jobs after graduation.
If the pilot programs are success4ful, he said, the clubs will be added to the more than 50 education-industry compacts that have been formed throughout Britain in the past three years.
The agreements are based on the American model exemplified by the Boston Compact, begun in 1982. As in the U.S. cities that have adopted such plans, private-industry leaders promise to give hiring priority to local graduates in return for measurable performance improvements in the schools.
According to Mr. Tucknutt, the British have taken the model a step further, with employers guaranteeing jobs, not just hiring priority.
The student-association element of Jobs for America's Graduates was adopted to give students "an additional push" to meet the goals set up by the compacts, he said.
"The club element may be a way of getting young people motivated," he explained.
American observers point out that British versions of such American innovations are only filling in the gaps of a much more comprehensive school-to-work system than the one in the United States.
The youth-training division of the Employment Department already supports two years of job- and skills-training programs available to all youths who leave school at 16, the last year of compulsory education in Britain. Career Services, a division of the Employment Department, guarantees employment for any 16-year-old seeking it, Mr. Tucknutt said.
Nothing like that exists in the United States, critics of this country's school-to-work transition note.
"The American school-to-work system, which isn't a system at all, is one of private choice," said Andrew Hahn, associate dean of the Heller Graduate School of Public Policy at Brandeis University. "You get a job, quit. Get another job, quit. And that's how you learn about how the American labor market works."
"A man from Mars coming down here would think it's crazy," he added.
Mr. Tucknutt agreed that the American system has a long way to go, but he said that does not dampen his enthusiasm for American innovation.
"Why we're looking to America is, of course, that we can learn from other other countries and other people," he said. "There are very good examples of industry and education working together in the States.''