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The Case for Externships

The industries of the future will require people creative and innovative enough to work with technology, not be replaced by it. By helping companies solve their real-world problems, secondary-school students can prepare themselves to meet the challenges of that future.

SINGAPORE – The industries of the future will require people creative and innovative enough to work with technology, not be replaced by it. And workers will need resilience and grit, because failure, more often than not, is part of the innovation process.

Unfortunately, secondary schools today are not providing a platform for imparting the skills necessary for their graduates to compete in the workplaces of the future. With some notable exceptions, mainstream schools in most countries remain insulated from the demands of industry, which all too often means they are cut off from rapid evolution in the economy at large. In order for students to be better prepared, schools and companies will have to learn to cooperate more closely than ever before in the formation of the workforce.

Several American companies are already working to close the gap. General Electric and IBM have both opened schools where students can benefit from a focus on math, engineering, and science. Udacity, the online education start-up founded by Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, delivers certified courses in partnership with companies, giving students an edge over applicants who have undertaken only classroom study. According to The Economist, more than 70 companies, including Microsoft, Verizon, and Lockheed Martin – all struggling to find innovative and tech-savvy skilled employees – are working on similar models with schools.

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