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Manufacturing Leaders Should Get Behind the IB High School Diploma

Posted By Everette Phillips, June 14, 2013 at 3:23 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

There is a growing and welcome trend among US high schools to adopt the standards of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program by offering an IB High School Diploma in addition to standard diplomas.  Our local high school, for example, has recently added the IB Diploma as an option for students after going through the trouble of becoming certified. The school now offers three levels of high school diploma:

1) Basic diploma, the minimum need to graduate in California;      

2) The UC-level diploma, which is the minimum standard needed to apply for admission to the University of California system, and

3) An IB Program diploma, which meets the worldwide standard of the International Baccalaureate Programme (www.ibo.org ).

This is relevant because the IB Diploma program, much more than standard high school diploma programs, emphasizes the development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills which are increasingly important to manufacturers and which are being overlooked in many standard high school programs.

There are many reasons and debates over why the value of the standard high school diploma has eroded, especially compared to diplomas based on global standards such as the IB. They range from pressure on schools to save money by reducing the number of educational hours in the classroom to pressure to reduce the dropout rate. There is also a debate about whether “teaching to the test” and  driving much more science instruction to the high school level are actually diluting STEM instruction. As a result of such trends, it has become increasingly challenging for manufacturing firms to identify STEM-oriented candidates who can work in today's factories which are filled with mechatronics, robotics, factory Ethernet and other STEM-dependent technologies.

The reasons I feel manufacturing leaders should embrace the IB program are threefold:

1) It is an existing standard that already has a foothold in the US and many other countries. US manufacturing firms can already access IB graduates, and the standard gives globally oriented manufacturers a measurement tool that is useful across multiple countries;

2) STEM education is very important to manufacturing firms, and the IB diploma is the only one requiring four years of math and four years of science among other useful requirements such as the study of a second language;

3) Although IB Programs already have a foothold in US secondary education, manufacturing firms can work with local school districts to guide the math and science components to meet their own local requirements;

The IB program is voluntary and, as such, local communities and local businesses must support it both politically and economically if it is to take root in their communities.  In order to support the IB program, manufacturers that are looking to fill  entry-level jobs can list the minimum requirement as High School IB Diploma or Associates Degree.  If a job candidate submits a resume that lists an IB Diploma in addition to an Associates or Bachelors degree, your team should recognize that the candidate has a strong STEM interest and aptitude.

Colleges are already recognizing the value of an IB education. According to the IB Diploma Graduate Destination Survey of 2011,"The average acceptance rate of IB students in university/college is 22 percentage points higher than the average acceptance rate of the total population." Manufacturing firms should follow the lead of colleges and have their team understand the program and recognize its value.

Manufacturing firms have a growing need for STEM-oriented employees today, and the IB Diploma program is already graduating many STEM-qualified students in the US today.  It is time for manufacturing leaders to understand the IB program, learn of its value to the future, and support the growth of local IB programs among US high schools.

Written by Everette Phillips

Everette's experience includes robotics, advanced manufacturing, supply chain management and international manufacturing. After a career path as a robotics engineer helping automate plants in North America, he became a manager of European Operations for Factory Automation & Robotics in Europe for SEIKO living an expat in Brussels then returning to the US as GM for Advanced Mfg Technologies in North America. Currently, as President of Global Mfg Network, he is involved in coordinating production of highly engineered parts, assemblies and products across a wide range of industries in manufacturing facilities located in Asia and North America and Europe. Everette is a regular speaker and panelist on topics related to manufacturing, international business and technologies such as robotics and advanced manufacturing. He has a BS Bioengineering from Cornell and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School. Everette serves on the board of Cornell Engineering Alumni Association as a Regional VP and on the Advisory Board for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.

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