DURHAM- “The ’90s were last century. The future is about partnerships between business and education.” This was the message Governor Mike Easley shared at a surprise announcement Thursday to a crowd of over 500 community leaders at NCTA’s A CEO Conversation at the Washington Duke in Durham.

“We will identify the skills needed by future employees to create students that can compete and win in a global economy,” emphasized Easley. “We don’t want to be second, we want to win!”

The initiative on how to make that happen is called The North Carolina Center for 21st Century Skills, and jumpstarts the beginning of a nationwide campaign to improve education to produce college graduates that are better prepared to enter the global workforce of today and tomorrow. The Center will be housed at the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) and is a public-private partnership supported by North Carolina public schools, community colleges and universities, in addition to corporations and businesses.

“We must continue to reform our public school system to meet the growing demands of the new global economy,” said Governor Easley. “The new 21st Century Skills Center will ensure that students graduate from our educational institutions with the skills they need to compete and succeed in the workplace. I am proud that North Carolina is a national leader in education progress.”

The announcement came after a presentation of His Excellency Karim Kawar, The Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States of America, spoke to the partnership capabilities Jordan offers U.S. enterprises. After the announcement John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems, a 21st Century Skills partner, offered insight in trends in the technology market.

Better education drives Center’s purpose
The North Carolina Center for 21st Century Skills is an outcome of the advocacy work put forth by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills sets into education. The initiative works with educators and business leaders to develop new models for testing criteria, curriculum and teacher training that supports the needs of businesses. The Center’s framework emphasizes 21st century learning skills in areas of:
• Analytic thinking
• Problem solving
• Communication and collaboration
• Global awareness
• Civic engagement
• Business, financial and economic literacy

With North Carolina SAT scores averaging at over 1,000– the largest jump in the country– and the success AP students have in placing in college, the state is a natural as the first to launch the program.

“Every child needs 21st century skills for success in learning and life. This initiative will better prepare students to leave school with skills and knowledge needed for the better paying, highly skilled jobs of the new economy,” said NC-native John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association and vice chairman Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Funding for the Center will be solicited from both the public and private sector.

The North Carolina Center for 21st Century Skills comes from the Partnership’s State Leadership Initiative, a collaborative project designed to help states build an agenda and implementation plan to support the development of a 21st century education environment. The Partnership is working with other key states to improve education system where curriculum standards, assessments and classroom practice support the development of 21st century skills.

Member organizations include: Agilent Technologies, American Association of School Librarians, American Federation of Teachers, Apple, Bell South Foundation, Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Inc., Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Dell Inc., ETS, Ford Motor Company Fund, Intel, JA Worldwide, Microsoft Corporation, National Education Association, Oracle Corporation, SAP, Texas Instruments Incorporated, Time Warner, Inc. and Verizon.

Visit: www.21centuryskills.org

Laura Childs is a free-lance contributor to Local Tech Wire and director of client relations for Articulon, a boutique PR and marketing company in Raleigh. She can be reached via email at laura@articulon.com