As part of the Twin Cities business community, I often have the opportunity to meet with leaders from many different businesses, both local and national, and hear firsthand about the challenges of today’s workplace. It comes as no surprise to me that education is a hot topic across all industries. The demands of the workplace have massively evolved even within the last 10 to 20 years, and we can expect roles and expectations to continue to change rapidly. After all, how many jobs can you think of off the top of your head that didn’t exist 20 years ago? Expertise in even the most common and widely-used software programs is relatively new, and constantly changing.

For this reason, investment in today’s K–12 students is absolutely crucial to the success of any business, in any industry. Not only do we need to continue filling positions left vacant by earlier generations, but we must be prepared to fill brand new roles with skilled, specialized talent. Investment in today’s youth is an investment in tomorrow’s workforce.

I recently penned an editorial for Minnesota Business magazine exploring the way schools should evolve now both to meet workplace needs, and to develop diverse student skills. When we discuss the Common Core State Standard goals of College and Career Readiness, we sometimes put too much focus on “College” and not enough on “Career.” While I believe that a college education is invaluable to many, it is also important to focus on other aspects of a successful education — such as soft skills, money management, and technical training or apprentice-model education as alternatives to a formal four-year degree.

One example I use often is that of my grandfather, Russ, who never attended college, but went on to run a very large construction company after World War II. My mother also never attended college, but opted instead for a technical certificate in hair styling and ran a successful salon for over 40 years. In fact, my mother was the first example I saw in my life of a true entrepreneur.

Yes, college is important — but as we consider how to invest now in the workforce of tomorrow, we need to remember the diversity of people’s goals, passions, and successes. We must remember the importance of the “Career” part of “College and Career Readiness.” After all, students entering high school this year will be in the workforce in under a decade, so we need to act now to make the improvements they need for future college and career success.

Look for Jamie’s article “The Evolution of Our Schools” in Minnesota Business magazine’s June 2015 issue.