Newswise – BOLTON LANDING, NY – The daunting challenges facing K-12 and higher education and a turbulent labor market were highlighted by leaders from both sectors at the CFES Brilliant Pathways “New Beginnings” Global Conference on November 2 with innovative ideas and new Best Practices defeated 7-8 at Sagamore Resort.
The 31st annual conference, held hybrid for the second time, attracted over 300 in-person attendees and thousands of virtual attendees who heard from international leaders in business, education, philanthropy and government on new strategies, skills, information and support that Critical to advancing students is success in a new college and career readiness paradigm.
CFES President Rick Dalton set the tone early by addressing five major challenges in a post-pandemic world: massive learning losses, teacher shortages, declining college enrollments, lack of a skilled workforce to fill millions of job vacancies, and a steep decline the enrollment of men at university.
“Political, cultural, demographic, public health and economic forces have created a perfect storm that contains more obstacles than we have ever seen in CFES’ 31-year history,” Dalton said. “But alongside these challenges, there are tremendous opportunities that exist for us.”
Dalton pointed out that people with a four-year degree earn twice as much in their lifetime as those with only a high school degree. He addressed the cost, gesturing at “an audience with a network of people committed to affordability and national models that are making college more affordable than it has been at any time in the last 50 years.” The audience applauded his plans for CFES to further advance essential skills like agility and endurance.
“Our school has had a 20-year partnership with CFES and I’ve been with it from the start,” said Jonathan Daly, principal of Eximius College Preparatory Academy in the Bronx. “We are enjoying a tremendous sense of renewal in the wake of the pandemic which, like everything and everyone, has taken a toll on us. The sense of awakening is very real and the conference title New Beginnings really resonates.”
Conference attendees participated in 25 workshops, breakout sessions and keynote speeches focused on topics such as STEM, financial literacy, the future of higher education, mentoring, social media and school-college partnerships. In the New Frontiers in Higher Education session, four college presidents spoke about the future of education and how students can best prepare for success.
“Students and their families are at a crossroads: they need to understand the critical importance of net costs (tuition, room and board). aafter tuition reduction and other financial assistance) and the importance of completing a four-year degree in four years,” said Clarkosn President Marc Christensen.
President Parwinder Grewal said Vermont State University is in the process of merging a traditional liberal arts college with a technological institution. “These are tough discussions at a time when the nature of work is changing so rapidly,” he said. “We see the value of micro-credentials in a broader, more traditional academic realm, such as
Students from more than 200 CFES schools nationwide learned from college professors and admissions advisors about careers and current space projects at NASA, the importance of essential skills, and accessing and succeeding in college.
“In the last 50 years we have transitioned from the industrial age to the information age, and now we are moving rapidly into the artificial intelligence (AI) age,” said Scott Thomas, dean of higher education at the University of Wyoming. “The essential skills identified and nurtured by CFES enable people, in a way, to differentiate themselves and their role in the workforce from the artificial intelligence paradigm.”
Still shaken by the pandemic, students and teachers spoke of the need for inspiration and a renewed sense of hope. They received both from keynote speakers Consuela Castillo Kickbusch, Founding President of Educational Achievement Services, and Dr. Calvin Mackie, President of STEM NOLA.
“For 25 years, I’ve been telling kids, ‘You gotta’ believe… you gotta have heart… and you gotta ‘have hope,'” Kickbusch said. “Never give up. This is non-negotiable.” Addressing the educators in the audience, she said, “You are the first responders, you are our freedom fighters.”
dr Mackie, a self-proclaimed “Eduvangelist,” spoke about the importance of mentors providing hope and guidance to students. “Growing up poor in New Orleans, I walked from despair onto a street called ‘Hope.’ My uncle was one of my biggest supporters…he said over and over again this boy is going to be an engineer. Hope is the one thing we cannot lose. Hope is that little voice in your head that says, ‘Yes, you can.’”
Ray McNulty, longtime educator and President of the Successful Practices Network, closed the conference by urging educators to look ahead and embrace change daily.
“We must lead the way by helping schools make the changes needed to better prepare students for the jobs of the future,” he said. “We must be agents of change, not objects of change. Adapting to changes after it happened is the old map. We have to anticipate change and prepare for it.”
CFES is a global leader in helping low-income students progress to college and careers and currently serves 25,000 students through partnerships with 200 rural and urban K-12 schools and districts in 20 states and Ireland. Drawing on research-driven methodologies and best practices, CFES has helped over 100,000 urban and rural students prepare for college and careers since 1991.