Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Economic Educational Precincts by Akindele Akinyemi

Education is a key to our prosperity, and our constitutents have been advised to train to better prepare for participation in a more diversified economy. In fact, our schools and postsecondary institutions have never been more able to educate and train people in preparation for employment. Yet, at present, making the connection between training and employment presents a challenge our region.

Reaching prosperity of our people through long-term job creation and sustainable economic development will require simultaneous effort on many fronts, involving many partnerships in an integrated approach. At present the potential exists, as never before, for the education and training system to play a strong part in community-industry partnerships which connect skills acquisition to work experience, job creation, labour force development and economic development.

Not too long ago I spoke of developing educational empowerment zones within our regional base in our urban communites. I am now asking conservatives to begin to discuss the option of designing economic precincts within those educational empowerment zones.

Here's how it works.

The design of an economic educational precinct will provide an avenue by which the educational services of state and county agencies can be connected to the implementation of plans made locally. However, the the EEPs cannot accomplish this integration without the cooperation and support of regionalgovernments and organizations. Success of the new regional economic educational development movement will be contingent upon "top-down" support for "bottom-up" decision- making, i.e. creation and implementation of zonal strategic economic plans by empowered residents and key agencies will depend upon central support and coordination.

A shift is required from the traditional, hierarchical structure of federal and state bureaucracies and line departments to a more horizontal and flexible urban regional partnership approach. Implicit in the formation of such partnerships is a concern to effectively support regional educational economic development. Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) will have to examine the way it does business, and to adopt policies which will support the operation of the zones. Priavte and regional funding agencies will have to work together to connect funding for education and training, work experience, job creation and business support to zonal strategic plans within these economic educational precincts.

Within these precincts the education system is essential to regional economic development. Traditionally, our youth have not been participants in the decision-making process regarding the economic future of their communities. Clearly, schools and parents have a direct role to play in helping young people to develop visions and plans, and to collectively focus upon community challenges by developing skills in: literacy; self-confidence; problem solving; cooperative participation; mathematical, scientific and technological literacy; and economic literacy.

Specialized charter schools have the capacity to be vibrant resource centers where family literacy, adult literacy, community education, information technology, and community collaboration can support the regional economic development process within these precincts. Innovative partnerships in education projects will thrive in the precinct. Regional Economic Educational Boards will replace traditional school boards and specialized charter schools will be an ideal source of ongoing opportunities for creative partnerships based upon the zones' strategic economic plans.

Finally, zone planning will provide a source of good local job market information which can be used to connect the education of individuals at both secondary and postsecondary levels to the needs of the zone via cooperative education placements, work experience, job creation and business development programs. When employment opportunities are limited, particularly in urban areas, economic educational institutions could consider taking a more active role in job creation by establishing training businesses, real estate training and community enterprises connected to zonal strategic plans.

We should be reading this information and whether you agree or disagree with what I am saying we should be discussing this in focus groups across within our urban regional base. We are the ones responsible for pushing for educational options in our community. Not the Democrats or the teacher unions.

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