As we talk about the training and development of our regional workforce, it is essential that we think about our youth—they are our future leaders. Are we doing everything we can to develop their minds so they are prepared to meet the needs of our regional workforce in the coming decades? Are they receiving the proper training in order to be competitive with the rest of the world? Is everything being done to ensure today’s youth are able to handle the challenges that are ahead?
One project that aims to answer yes to those questions is the Peoria Charter School Initiative (PCSI). Passage of this project is a monumental achievement for this community and everyone involved. Business leaders, parents, educators, community volunteers—you name it—people have been working night and day to bring this educational opportunity to Peoria. I became involved with the project because Peoria NEXT is focused on technology and innovation, and unfortunately, our students aren’t making the grade in this arena. The Charter School is a District 150 public school that will focus on math, science and technology. It is scheduled to open in Fall 2010, and is open to any student within the district who applies. The school will begin with grades five through seven and will add a class level each year, ultimately serving grades five through 12, with a maximum of nearly 600 students.
But why do we need this school and why right now? It’s simple to me. We are being outperformed, and that is going to have a massive negative effect on our future. At one time, the United States led the world in educating the very best and brightest, but that is not the case today. Locally, our students rank below state averages in math and science, and our graduation rates are below state level. Local businesses are telling us that our graduates are not prepared in the areas of math, science and technology, and they can’t meet the regional workforce demands. We have to change this.
According to Talent Force 21, a report prepared by the Workforce Network, high school students throughout this region are not prepared to join the local workforce. That puts us at risk of losing industries here in Peoria. We cannot afford for that to happen. The future workforce is going to need workers who are well versed in science, technology, engineering and mathematically-based skills. If we don’t have the workforce, we can’t compete.
Why do we need this type of an educational experience in Peoria? Because we need to be able to answer a resounding yes to the questions that were asked above:
- Are we doing everything possible to develop students’ minds so they are prepared to meet the needs of our regional workforce in the coming decades? YES.
- Are our students receiving the training necessary to be competitive with the rest of the world? YES.
- Is everything being done to ensure today’s youth is able to handle the challenges that are ahead? YES.
The application process for students who are interested in attending is now open. For more information, visit peoriacharterschools.org. iBi