By John Heyliger

My involvement with Colorado Succeeds is a natural fit. Like many other companies, Lockheed Martin is experiencing an unprecedented demand for highly skilled employees and the strategies for developing them.

Our workforce has always been our competitive advantage. That’s why we invest heavily in collaborative efforts with our educational community to grow our talent pipeline. Last year alone, Lockheed Martin granted nearly $12 million and more than 115,000 volunteer hours to facilitate stronger connections between industry and the classroom.

Our imperative is clear. We must ensure the world has the dynamic STEM talent to meet the challenges of our modern economy. And that’s a big part of what Colorado Succeeds is working for as well.

We must closely collaborate with communities that are just as focused on closing the talent gap as we are. Most recently, we signed on to host a high school teacher for a summer externship through STEMpath – a program offered by mindSpark Learning and supported by Colorado Succeeds and Ball Corporation. This teacher will learn new computer science skills and take them back to her classroom in the fall with lessons for practical application.

We at Colorado Succeeds and Lockheed Martin believe in making education more relevant and valuable to students by providing them with the opportunities, experiences, and pathways to lead them to a meaningful future.

This past fall, I joined Colorado Succeeds and a delegation of business leaders on a trip to Silicon Valley to learn from education innovators and industry titans who are integrating education and economic development strategies, and driving impact through strategic cross-sector collaboration.

I came away with three clear impressions. First, there are both new ideas and unbounded support for creating new career pathways for students.

Second, I saw collaboration between K-12 education, higher education, and industry centered around design thinking, focused on addressing the STEM talent gap. But more than that, they were also creating multiple pathways for students entering our evolving workforce.

Finally, everyone involved seems to realize that none of us can do this alone. Partnerships are key to success.

We are facing a key inflection point in education. We find ourselves at a moment in which learners must develop knowledge, skills, and competencies to succeed in an uncertain future and adapt to a dynamically changing world around them.

While the pace of change is accelerating at an exponential rate, the needs of learners are also becoming more complex and their interests increasingly diverse.

Our current education system was built for a past era and has not kept pace, leaving many students unprepared for today’s – let alone, the future’s – workforce demands.

The only way our state can successfully navigate this uncharted territory is to focus on creating agile learners, agile educators, and agile systems.

Achieving this vision of agility in all facets of education requires that all children be provided the opportunity to explore and navigate a variety of high-quality pathways; gain the essential skills they need to succeed; and connect to meaningful careers and opportunities for continued lifelong learning.

It’s a vision that has not only inspired me and my colleagues at Lockheed Martin but has also been well-received by diverse constituents across Colorado. From students and families to educators and employers, to elected officials, we are creating a broad coalition of Coloradans who are committed to greater agility in education.

We at Colorado Succeeds are the intersection of education leadership in our state – bringing together educators, employers, and elected officials to create value for students.

I hope you will join us as we build a new system, designed with equity, innovation, and iteration in mind from the very beginning.

John Heyliger is the Director of Workforce Programs & Analytics for Lockheed Martin Corporation and a member of Colorado Succeeds.