Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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Summit encourages businesses to be engaged in education


Christopher DeVargas

Elaine Wynn speaks to attendees during the 2016 Business Education Summit inside Rynolds Hall at The Smith Center, Monday March 7, 2016.

Business Education Summit 2016

Former Secretary of State of Nevada Ross Miller speaks to attendees during the 2016 Business Education Summit inside Rynolds Hall at The Smith Center, Monday March 7, 2016. Launch slideshow »

For years, business and state leaders have made plenty of promises to improve the Clark County School District for the sake of the students and “economic diversification.”

Today, members of the business community participated in an education symposium hosted by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to put some action behind those promises.

Dubbed the BE Engaged Summit, the event at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts highlighted problems such as poverty that have impacted the state’s K-12 schools.

Afterward, business attendees were encouraged to stop by educational nonprofit organizations’ exhibits at the Reynolds Hall and come up with creative ways to assist the groups, be it through financial support or volunteer time.

“There is a real opportunity here to get things done,” said former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, who spoke at the event.

This is not the first attempt by the alliance to get the business community more involved with the School District. The organization recently created a series of tours where local industries can connect with some of the county’s brightest students.

But Metro Chamber Chairman John Guedry said all too often businesses commit to ideas, only for the excitement to die down.

This time, Guedry said, the Metro Chamber would keep track of industry leaders’ engagement with the nonprofits and compile a report every quarter.

“The business community has always been engaged but very sporadically,” he said. “This makes sure there’s continued progress.”

Following last year’s legislative session in which education reform was the top priority, the K-12 system has come under scrutiny.

While improving education has become more of a talking point among national leaders, Clark County, one of the largest school districts in the country, has only fallen further behind national standards in some instances.

For example, the state’s per-pupil spending is short at least $2,000 of the national average. Additionally, the exodus of teachers because of low pay and overcrowding. has forced some schools to sandwich 40 students into one classroom taught by one teacher.

These issues, among others, are why businesses must take a more active role, said Clark County School Board member Kevin Child.

“We need to get the students career ready,” he said.

Visiting classes and becoming mentors could be just one simple way an employer can assist, he said.

“We need help,” Child said. “Just come in and tell kids what entails to be a good employee.”

The influx of technology-centric companies like Faraday Future and Tesla has only emphasized the need to address educational issues, which business leaders hope will result in students staying in Nevada instead of seeking employment elsewhere.

“One of the things that we’ve been working on for the last few years is developing a workforce for the future,” Metro Chamber CEO Kristin McMillan said in a previous interview with VEGAS INC. “You can’t do that unless you improve education results within our state.”

McMillan also stressed that if the state were to market more toward large employers like Faraday, the School District would have to up its standards for science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — education.

Click to enlarge photo

Kristin McMillan is the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce director.

“We’re seeing a lot of technological innovations here surrounding some of the new business opportunities that come into our area,” she said. “That’s only going to grow from here. It makes it all the more important for us to focus on STEM education.”

Fortunately, CCSD got a bit of a head start at the summit.

Alan Gomez, chief academic officer of the STEM Academy, a leading nonprofit organization that works with schools worldwide to improve education in the sciences, announced the academy would donate $1.42 million to Clark County middle schools.

The grant will be used to help schools improve or introduce new aspects to their STEM curriculum, such as offering after-school programs for students with a curiosity in the sciences.

Middle school, Gomez said, is the time when students start to develop interests that eventually lead to choosing a career.

“These kids will be the ones conducting our X-rays and fixing our computers in the future,” he said. “If we don’t educate them now, we’ll all pay for it later.”

Gomez said events like the BE Engaged Summit should open employers’ eyes to what it takes to keep their companies alive.

“If you won’t work with young children, you won’t have a pipeline of employees,” he said.

Sun reporter Ian Whitaker contributed to this report.

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