Education with Purpose: A Paradigm Shift

Posted April 23, 2019 by Mark Perna

Direction. Confidence. Marketable skills. Passion.

All of these things are essential ingredients in a person’s lifelong success—and it’s the laudable goal of most educators in America to teach these attributes alongside their academic subjects. We want to help shape the next generation of intelligent, productive citizens who graduate with a bright future ahead. There’s no question that young people desperately need direction, confidence, marketable skills, and passion to succeed in today’s workforce. So why are these skills so often left out of the educational experience?

We know that if young people can find their career direction sooner rather than later in their educational journey, their outlook is much more positive. They can not only save themselves enormous amounts of time and money, but also the frustration of struggling to discover that direction once the financial clock starts ticking.

But there’s so little time in a typical school day. Academic subjects understandably take precedence over “softer areas” like career exploration and self-discovery. But what if there was a way to integrate these critical traits into existing lesson plans—teaching academic subjects from a fresh perspective of relevance? What if we could convey to students that all of this is leading somewhere good (and that it’s a destination beyond just college)?

I knew there had to be a way to achieve a paradigm shift so that academic education and career purpose are seen as allies rather than mutually exclusive priorities. And that’s how the Education with Purpose® philosophy came into being.

The Power of Purpose

The seed of Education with Purpose was planted when I saw the incredible motivating power that a sense of purpose gave my son Nick. Though highly intelligent, Nick struggled through his education until he visited a programing and software development class during his sophomore year of high school. In that computer lab, Nick found what he’d been missing all along: a goal, a dream, a compelling purpose to work toward. His paradigm changed forever when he saw the career he wanted to achieve. Now, he had the motivation to power through the steps to get there. (As a dad, I can’t even express what a beautiful day that was!)

Simply put, Education with Purpose® is the belief that students and trainees who are exposed to robust academic knowledge alongside powerful technical and professional skills are empowered to discover their personal ambitions and goals sooner than those who aren’t. When they can see, feel, smell, touch, and experience what’s possible as a result of their education, that education is suddenly invested with incredible relevance. They see where it’s leading—and what’s more, they want to go there. For maybe the first time, they have a new appreciation for the learning process because they understand why it matters.

Purposeful Education is Career Minded

Education with Purpose strives for a well-rounded education that encompasses academic, technical, and professional knowledge with the destination of a rewarding career. Along the way, students can start developing the critical knowledge and abilities discussed earlier:

  • Direction: Young people don’t know what they don’t know about the opportunities available today. But equipped with firsthand experience and personal evaluation, they can start to grasp the three-way intersection between their talents, their career choice, and the lifestyle they want to enjoy.
  • Confidence: Students who experience a career for themselves before deciding to pursue it can feel confident about their choice. Confidence comes through experience, which is exactly what students get when they merge academic knowledge with valuable technical and professional skills.
  • Marketable Skills: Through focused learning experiences, career-minded education exposes students to high-demand careers and occupations that will support their lifestyle goals while closing the skills gap in our economy and communities.
  • Passion: Young people need passion to overcome challenges on the way to their career destination. Education with Purpose helps them generate that passion because it puts them in control of their own destiny. It’s their goals, not ours that they are working toward.

The Paradigm Shift We Need

Some young people possess an innate drive and the family support to develop these traits and abilities without additional guidance. But many do not have these advantages and would benefit greatly from a purpose-driven perspective that is embedded in their K–12 learning experience and beyond. The goal of school should be not just to learn, but to learn something relevant. That’s why we need to shift the paradigm from education for its own sake to Education with Purpose.

Students who have experienced a purpose-driven education will pursue postsecondary learning at college or other specialized training institutions for the right reason: because it’s the next step on their personal career journey. They’re prepared, they’re committed, and they’re going to succeed because they want to.

With massive changes coming to the American workforce in the wake of automation, globalization, and AI, we need to change the way we prepare young people. Through its intersection of robust academic knowledge, marketable technical competencies, and valuable professional skills, Education with Purpose is the paradigm of the future.

About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is a best-selling author and the founder of TFS in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic consulting firm whose mission is to share and support every client's passion for making a difference.
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