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As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition
AT&T Aspire, already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives with more than $100 million invested since 2008, will tackle high school success and college/career readiness for students at-risk of dropping out of high school through a much larger, “socially innovative” approach.
Social innovation goes beyond traditional philanthropy – which typically involves only charitable giving – to also engage people and technology to bring different approaches, new solutions and added resources to challenging social problems. The greatly expanded effort centers on a new, $250 million financial commitment planned over 5 years.
To build on this commitment the centre will use technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, such as with interactive gamification, Web-based content and social media. The company will also tap the innovation engine of the AT&T Foundry to look for fresh or atypical approaches to educational obstacles.
Finally, AT&T Aspire will capitalize on the power of personal connections in the form of mentoring, internships and other voluntary efforts. The Aspire effort already has impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.
“Working towards an America where every student graduates high school equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said while announcing the extended commitment during a keynote address at the second annual Building a Grad Nation Summit.
The Washington, D.C., event convened by America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Alliance for Excellent Education brings together nearly 1,200 U.S. leaders to discuss progress and challenges in ending the high school dropout crisis.
Lacking a high school degree is a serious issue in the United States, where one in four students – more than 1 million each year – drops out, according to a March 19, 2012, report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Education experts believe that the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated job market. And, if dropouts find jobs, they earn less. On average, a high school dropout earns 25% less during the course of his or her lifetime compared with a high school graduate and 57% less than a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
The situation poses a serious risk to American competitiveness as corporations struggle to find talent, especially in the math and sciences fields. The dropout rate, along with inadequate training and education, is keeping many high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs from being filled. And the situation is expected to worsen as STEM jobs grow a projected 17% by 2018. Workers in these positions typically earn 26% more than those in non-STEM positions.
Although the problem is serious, there are signs of progress according to the report issued on March 19, 2012. According to the report High school graduation rate increased by 3.5% nationally from 2001 to 2009.
“It will take all of us working together and supporting the hard work of the education community to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college,” Stephenson said. “American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It’s time to commit more innovation and resources to the task.”