The Boston Compact -- not just for Boston
Schools and businesses need each other as never before. They face the mutual task of preparing and enlisting young people for rapidly changing and often sharply specialized jobs - at a time when public resources for the task are being cut. The new Boston Compact is a welcome addition to an international trend of schools and businesses working together to match available jobs with the young people whose unemployment problem is so acute.
The details of these programs vary from city to city, country to country. But they all have to draw on a prime motivator for the student to develop employable skills - parental interest. Where this is lacking, often among the disadvantaged children who need it most, the most dedicated efforts are required to bring it about.
Sometimes ethnic attitudes are involved. Or parents may be wary of the authority represented by the school. Teachers and counselors have to go the extra mile to visit them, put them in touch with their children's schools and individual educational necessities. One instance of progress: in Cologne the work of Turkish counselors in collaboration with a German colleague resulted in the cooperation of Turkish parents on such sensitive points as the vocational education of young women.
Support by parents - and indeed the entire community - will help the Boston Compact fulfill its potential. It is a commitment between schools and business leaders. The schools will seek such gains as measurable increases in student achievement and reductions in dropouts. The businesses will give Boston students first crack at entry-level jobs. And they will join with the schools as well as local colleges to assist in such matters as counseling, computer literacy, and alternative education.
Here is a possibility of breaking the grip of disillusionment: what good does it do to study since there's no job for me anyway? With the increased racial minority population of Boston schools, this compact will be the more effective the more it operates in the ''just and equal'' spirit of the Pilgrims' Mayflower Compact whose name it echoes.
The new Boston pioneers of improved public education have a rich context to work in. Northeastern University, for example, has long brought business and students together in its work-study programs. Last year it dramatized the scope of the issue with a world conference on cooperative education. Cited there were such examples as:
* Britain's ''youth guarantee'' assuring additional training to any student out of work for six months after leaving school. The success rate for jobs at the end of training: 80 percent.
* The apprenticeships in Switzerland, Austria, and West Germany where those leaving school combine vocational education with work in cooperating firms.
* The plans in a number of countries under which students, during their last two years of compulsory education, are given periods of several weeks' work in farm, factory, or office - thus getting an advance taste of their possible options.
We think also of the boys' club on the US side of the Mexican border where young people have been linked with companies from the first moments of getting ready for a job interview. Some of them from broken or poverty-stricken homes had had no model of a working family member from whom to learn.
There will be jobs tomorrow.There will be young people who need them. The compact to bring the two together ought to extend far beyond Boston - and sign up parents, too.