More than 20 years ago, the business community in Boston initiated an agreement with the education community that promised priority hiring of Boston students in return for improved school and student performance. While school reform proved to be a much more complicated equation than that—and is still a work in progress—the “Boston Compact” set the stage for one of the country’s most extensive school-to-career programs. Carried out under the auspices of the Boston Private Industry Council, the program integrates the business and school communities in a variety of ways. Catalyst intern Thaddeus P. Hartmann explains some of them.

JOB PLACEMENT The council has placed at least one career specialist in every public high school to help students land summer and after-school jobs in the city’s major industries, especially health care and financial services, and to help them with goal setting. The jobs include customer service, tracking orders for financial firms and doing EKGs at hospitals. Last summer, about 1,000 firms employed about 4,000 students, a fifth of total high school enrollment.

MULTI-YEAR COMMITMENT Under a program called ProTech, employers in four industries make multi-year commitments to selected students at five of the city’s 23 high schools. In the fall of their junior year, students do job shadowing in various departments. About half the students return in the spring for part-time jobs, which convert to full-time jobs during the summer. Employment continues through senior year and often beyond.

TECH FOCUS TechBoston is a department of the public schools that supports advanced technology courses in 10 middle schools and 20 high schools. The courses include Cisco Networking, Sun Java, advanced web design and robotics. More than 2,500 students and 150 teachers participated last year. With the help of the Private Industry Council, TechBoston places about 200 students annually in internships. TechBoston students built the council’s web site:

WORKPLACE CLASSROOMS Research conducted by the council in the late 1990s found that school-to-career activities correlated with lower drop-out rates and higher attendance, graduation and college-enrollment rates, but that the activities had no impact on test scores. With the state on track to require students to pass state tests in order to graduate, the school system opened classrooms at summer and after-school job sites to increase instruction in reading, writing and math. A council study found that the test scores of students participating in these classes jumped an average of 1.2 grade levels.

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