Purpose At Work: How Ford’s Transforming Lives And Its Business Through Education

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By: Simon Mainwaring, Forbes

This is the fifth article in a series of interviews from business leaders who attended the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles. The Summit is ground zero for purpose-driven entrepreneurs, philanthropists, business representatives, and individuals working to leverage capitalism for social good. For this article I spoke with Cheryl Carrier, Executive Director of Ford Next Generation Learning.

Simon Mainwaring: Few people know about Ford’s impact on education. Can you share a little background?

Cheryl Carrier: What really excites me about Ford Motor Company and Ford Motor Company Fund is our history of leadership in education. Ford Next Generation Learning works with communities to transform education be relevant and authentic for students. It gives our young people the kind of high school experiences that equip them to make informed decisions about their future. It connects them with local employers and civic leaders. It builds social capital and 21st century workforce skills like problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, valuing diverse opinions and being lifelong learners. But it goes beyond work. What we do impacts the very things students require to be successful in life — even the skills and attitudes needed to get along with their future partner or spouse.

Mainwaring: But why education? How does it support Ford’s business?

Carrier: For Ford, it’s always been about helping students prepare for their future. However, it’s also evident that Ford Motor Company is competing for talent with other high-tech companies. So, we’re starting to do more in the communities where we have operations. We want to break down the barriers to make sure local students are eventually able to walk in our doors, contribute, and succeed.

Mainwaring: So where do you begin?

Carrier: We apply our unique, community-connected approach. Transforming education requires working with community members and employers. They help us engage students in more meaningful ways. In turn we help them break down barriers in their HR processes to get them a more diverse and capable workforce. We can no longer leave behind students that are smart and capable. We’ve got qualified people in our own backyard. We are driven by our mission to help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, career and life.

Mainwaring: How does this make a difference to employers and their roles?

Carrier: We engage employers in the transformation, and they bring the world of work to the classroom. Students work on real employer projects with students and teachers. As a result, what we hear time and again from employers is, “How can we do more and go deeper?”

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