Educators link with business leaders to encourage critical thinking

Sara Cambensy

ADRIAN — Two dozen administrators and educators from across Lenawee County came together Wednesday with local business and industry leaders to develop problem-solving skills to develop connections between students and the work force.

Mark Kramer and Thad Merritt from the Anderson Development Co., Jim Green from Venchurs Inc. and Amanda Brooks from ProMedica discussed the need to collaborate with the next generation of workers to develop critical-thinking skills to improve their work environment.

Having local business and industry leaders lead professional learning with local educators is a unique, yet much needed and overdue opportunity, Lenawee Intermediate School District Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and General Services Kyle Griffith said.

“We have high hopes that this will lead to more opportunities in the future and that education in Lenawee County will be impacted by the potentially powerful takeaways from local business and industry leaders,” Griffith said.

“For years, we have had conversations with business and industry leaders regarding talent pipeline challenges,” Griffith said. “Today, we have four business and industry leaders who are taking the next step to clearly define an area that educators can apply in the classroom to create students that have a universal skill set of solving problems.”

Griffith said those skills will be applicable for any student aspiring to meet the needs of business and industry.

Kramer said that at his company, “we do a lot of problem-solving involving chemistry.”

“If we can get people involved in the problem-solving and critical-thinking process, the better we all will be,” he said. “If we can help the teachers and give them tools they can use as part of what they’re doing already, then we’re all doing well together. It’s all about investing in people.”

Green said his company welcomes input from its employees, whether it’s through open discussion or by using a form.

“We have no dumb ideas at Venchurs,” he said. “Every idea goes before a group, where the team will then implement the idea and recognize the person. It is beneficial to engage people on a daily basis.”

“Understanding your current condition and understanding where you want to be helps determine your goals, and puts together a recipe for success,” Green said.

Britton Deerfield Schools Superintendent Stacy Johnson said she was excited to be part of the discussion Wednesday.

“In education specifically, career and technical education has come to the forefront,” she said. “We are working a lot in Lenawee County to establish those community-based relations and workforce-readiness components, and today is a good problem-solving piece of that. It helps us as educators know what they (business leaders) are looking for, and we can help students establish a plan, a pathway for getting ready to graduate and become a part of our communities.

“It’s also great for me as a superintendent to take these problem-solving techniques back to my district and leadership teams,” Johnson said. “It gives you another approach; it lets you hear other insights — how do we look at systems, how do we look at schools? There is always room for improvement.”

In the end, Johnson said, “businesses and school districts have the same type of environment. They really are one and the same.”

Kramer echoed Johnson’s approach to training students to be problem solvers.

“We all have the same challenge,” Kramer said. “We want to continue to learn and grow, we need to learn what goes right, and what goes wrong. It’s all about how to get better life skills, thinking critically, working through problems and getting to the root of what’s happening and not just what is at the surface.”